Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beach Trash

Sand Beach, November 25, 2010
I don't photograph everything I pick up on the beach. Sometimes it doesn't all fit. Sometimes a shell or feather won't show up against the white background. And sometimes an object just isn't interesting but I don't want to leave it behind. Like plastic trash. You may have noticed that there isn't a lot of contemporary trash in these photos. This is because most plastic does not change very much in the ocean. Not a lot of patina on an Aquafina bottle. Irony, yes. Patina, no. So I personally find most modern beach trash boring. But on the National Park beaches I don't gather anything but garbage (take only pictures, you know, and leave only footprints), so I'm happy to find bits of rope. Even plastic and nylon ropes get frayed and knotted and twisted and faded. I like them.

And I do pick up a lot of other trash while beach combing. It feels wrong to leave it, unless I think the ocean will eventually improve it. Glass, for example, I usually leave, and some metal. Plastic and paperish things like cigarette butts are hopeless, though. Those are true trash, and I make sure they reach ... the landfill. Small improvement, I know. In some ways it smacks of NIMBYism. Not OK on my beach, but OK in your dump. Garbage is so emotionally charged, isn't it? There's no really satisfactory end for it. But there is some satisfaction in cleaning a beach. I came across this video on the Lino Forest blog:

Now I do know some people who do work with plastic they find on the beach. Check out ankepaap's blog, for one, and the aforementioned Lino Forest. Ankepaap works on the North Sea, I think, or the Baltic, and the work really makes me think twice about the artistic possibilities of beach plastic:

 And here's an interesting corporate response to the issue:
The Electrolux "Vac from the Sea" project. Apparently there isn't enough recycled plastic available for them to make vacuum shells out of it, so they sent out teams to harvest plastic trash from five seas, then crafted limited-edition vacuum cleaners from the debris. This is the Mediterranean edition. They've also got the North Sea, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Baltic Sea editions. I love it when artists make new objects from trash, but these are incredibly disappointing, especially the crusted-looking Pacific,
which looks like a kindergarten mosaic that would hold more dust in its crevices than in the vacuum bag. Ick! And it's hardly a long-range plan. But I give them big points for a rich concept. And lord knows I've got no better solutions up my sleeve. Next up in my Netflix queue is No Impact Man,

No Impact Man
about a city guy who decides to leave no impact on the earth for a year. Maybe he knows what to do with the garbage! If I figure it out, I'll let you know.

And in case you're curious, too, here are some books on my reading list as I learn about beach trash:
Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How One Man's Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science   Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Scientists in the Field Series)   Washed Up   No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process
(I hope you aren't offended by the Amazon inserts, it's a great way to get images of the book covers. And we all know I like lots of pictures!)

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