Three-hundred and fifteen pounds of microplastic and marine debris was collected from Manzanita’s beach over the course of six days in 2015, according to Kate Eskew, project coordinator and volunteer.
By Jordan Wolfe
On June 18, Eskew and her team will do it again and said she is seeking funding and volunteers to extend the clean up.
“I liken it to getting after blackberries,” she said. “Left unaddressed, things build over time, like blackberries. We may never get it all, but we get a more reasonable situation.”
Marc Ward of Seaside and president of the non-profit Sea Turtles Forever said, “Microplastics have been ingested at every level of the food web, at this point.”
Microplastics are a material that is left over when larger macroplastics are broken down, he added. Bottles, car parts and plastic bags break down to one-half to five millimeters and are consumed by sea life, starving them, he said.
The highest concentration of microplastic in Manzanita, Eskew said, is a two feet band along the high tide mark. The area where families tend to gather.
She said a professor in Japan did toxicology studies on the free-floating toxins that microplastic absorbs and identified them as endocrine disruptors. Sea life, pets and children are the most susceptible.
“The microplastics settle and people build fires along this band. They’re cooking hot dogs over it, children put it in their mouths and dogs lick it.”
She explains that plastic has been dumped into the ocean since the material was created in the 50s.
“What’s coming in is very old for it to have broken down to the small size we’re seeing.”
How microplastic is able to be collected, Eskew said, is through a revolutionary screen created by Marc Ward of Seaside, and president of the non-profit Sea Turtles Forever.
Ward said, “We developed a filtration system that’s simple, low-cost, manual and needs no fuel or outside energy.”
The screen, he explains, is made of a type of polymer material that emits a low-level electro-static charge that captures all plastics as it sifts through the sand. Plastics as small as 50 micrometers, the thickness of a piece of paper, are able to cling to the screen to be discarded.
He said, “As long as we keep removing these microplastics from these high density sites, we’re filtering the ocean – which has been impossible up to this time.”
High-density sites are flagged because the ocean current repeatedly drops large deposits of microplastic to the same spots on the Earth, according to Ward. The Manzanita and Neahkahnie Beach area is one of them.
Eskew said that Ward needs to duplicate himself, so the next best thing is to train volunteers and have screens in communities to be accessed.
She said there will be a short workshop on marine microplastic and filtration training in the morning and then proceed to a cleanup.
“This issue is a global issue,” Ward said, “Our goal is to filter every site on Earth that has high density landfall of this material.
For more information, contact Kate Eskew at [email protected].
To donate, visit seaturtlesforever.org and earmark the funds to Manzanita.
The Manzanita beach cleanup will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the end of Laneda, on the beach, with a training workshop at 9 a.m. and an hour break for lunch on June 18.