Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved the beach. When I was younger, I was occupied with building sandcastles, splashing in the waves and collecting seashells. While I still enjoy doing all of those things, now I am preoccupied with the abundance of trash I find on the beach.
The more time I spend on undeveloped and seldom-traveled beaches, the more I notice the incredible amount of man-made debris that washes in from the ocean. Marine debris is a huge issue for our oceans — much more than an eyesore on our favorite beaches. Huge collections of debris like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
are altering ecosystems. Myriad marine animals are impacted
by trash each year. Health risks associated with seafood are even on the rise as pollutants move up the food chain
So, I have progressed from picking up natural treasures to collecting humanity's refuse that is continually pushed ashore. True to my nature of being a collector, it is hard for me to just turn around and toss my haul into the nearest dumpster. I recycle as much as can be recycled, but I also repurpose my finds as well. You might be surprised how often my finds can be put back into commission for their original purpose, like the crab trap I mended for my dad, the yoga mat I have been using for years, and the plastic toys that just need a quick rinse before they go into the toy basket.
Some of the pieces I find are beyond repair, though. Inspired by the variety of colors, shapes and textures of the debris, I've been giving them a new form and a new purpose. A balloon ribbon becomes the countershading on a redfish. A buoy becomes the base of a lamp. A kite-boarding line becomes a dreamcatcher. A piece of foam becomes a canvas.
The real purpose of their second life is to start a conversation, and as this conversation about our oceans' pollution problem grows, perhaps too, solutions will begin to form. And in the meantime, there will be one less plastic bottle in the ocean, and one less balloon in the landfill.
If you are interested in cleaning up the next beach you visit, use this app
to document what you find. This data helps scientists and policymakers get a better picture of the debris issue threatening our oceans.
Photos: Laura Early