Monday, May 7, 2018

Volunteering for the Earth Day Clean Up 2018

Paige at Buzzards Bay Recreation Area
Photo Credit: John Pribilla

On April 21, 2018, as part of my internship at the Cape Cod Canal with the US Army Corp. of Engineers, I had the opportunity to volunteer for their Earth Day celebration. This annual celebration was hosted by the US Army Corps of Engineers, organized by AmeriCorps Cape Cod, and was held at the Buzzards Bay Recreation Area. I assisted with the set-up for the event, and while I was working, I had the time to review a few of the organization’s earth-friendly themed displays. The one display that caught my attention the most was what happens to discarded litter over time. The poster demonstrated the length of time it took for various types of trash to decompose in the natural environment. I was surprised at how long it takes to break down common items to their base elements, such as monofilament line, Styrofoam cups, tin cans, six pack can holders, drinking straws, and plastic bags.

Marine Debris from the Cape Cod Canal Clean-up
Photo Credit: USACE

Every time I picked up monofilament line during my day at the clean-up, I thought of the line being tangled around a seabird. When I picked up a 6-pack plastic can holder, I envisioned it getting caught around marine life or seabirds possibly making them choke or causing immense pain. As I disposed of a plastic bag, I imagined a sea turtle mistaking it for a jellyfish and dying after eating it. When I picked up a crushed and broken lobster trap, I thought of the lobsters that were left to die in the discarded trap and the other animals that might have gotten trapped inside or crushed by the weight of the broken metal. As I picked up the tangled and broken lines and buoys, I imagined all the marine life that would have been entangled in the lines.  

Ghost Pot with Trapped Live Lobster
Photo Credit: USACE

The question is; what can we do to make a difference? There are a few things we can do to help right now. For starters, we can eliminate trash from the environment. This may seem impossible, but if everyone picks up at least one piece of trash every day, it will greatly impact what’s happening. By minimizing our plastic consumption, we can reduce the amount of contamination. Finally, we can reduce the amount of litter if we get rid of plastic altogether from our lives. With plastics gone from our world, there will be no need to worry about all the harm it can cause. Many places are switching to more environmentally friendly materials. Examples would be: grocery stores using paper bags instead of plastic, restaurants using cardboard boxes instead of plastic, and schools switching from plastic utensils to silverware. 
If we all do something to help, in time we will have a decrease in the use of plastics and the impact they have on the environment. If we continue to use more renewable and environmentally friendly products and materials, we will see an improvement in our future and our health for all creatures living on the Earth. I believe there is still hope for my generation to have a cleaner, healthier, and happier environment.

-  Paige
Paige Pribilla; Natural Resource Intern; Cape Cod Canal