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Trash Lab

Some people are theoreticians; I’m an experimentalist.

I am glad that some other folks are, too! :-)

The Ocean Conservancy, which oversees annual beach cleanups worldwide, is running an experiment called the “Trash Lab” using the City of Santa Cruz landfill! The Ocean Conservancy and its partner, Save Our Shores, separated and dried trash that was collected from seven local beaches during the September 15 trash pickups conducted in California. The Santa Cruz Sentinel says:

“There’s been so much discussion and yet still very little scientific data and information on trash in the ocean,” said Kaitilin Gaffney, Ocean Conservancy’s pacific program director. “So we’re trying to move this issue along and expand our understanding and help reduce the threat.”

The National Academy of Sciences estimates 6.4 million tons of trash make it into the ocean every year worldwide. The Coastal Cleanups are an attempt to capture some of that, but also to raise awareness to be mindful of debris.

So… what did folks learn?

Santa Cruz County likes BEER! 😉

Although picnic items like paper plates and plastic utensils are discarded on “family beaches” like Rio del Mar, beer bashes apparently reign supreme on the North Coast’s Davenport and Panther beaches!

“It’s weekend parties. Beer bottles and beer cans. Hundreds, thousands of cans and bottles,” Gaffney said.

In addition, The Ocean Conservancy studied trash from four more beaches: Seabright Beach, Sunset State Beach, Manresa State Beach and Seascape Beach. Seabright Beach, which is cleaned regularly, had less trash than the other beaches.

Volunteers used the city’s Resource Recovery Facility to separate and weigh trash, noting the results and sending them off to headquarters to see if the Ocean Conservancy wants to expand the program, particularly with so much focus on marine debris.

Oddly, among the last four beaches, Seascape had 40 golf balls among the debris, even though it is physically impossible to hit a golf ball onto the shore from the golf course in the area. Panther Beach had two televisions.

About 50 shoes were found!

(Note added September 27, 2012: Beer drinkers – get a clue and quit giving yourselves a “bad name.” Be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. We all live on this planet, and nothing really “goes away,” except maybe Helium atoms and a few space vehicles. :-) )

-Bill at

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