We had our first beach clean up of the expedition a few days in. The plastic accumulates alarmingly quickly (despite the fact that we are so far away from anything) so needs to be removed. Jenny, our expedition manager, says that for every bag of trash that we make on camp, and take back to Sarteneja to dispose of, she likes to pick one off the beach. That’s a pretty good ratio if you ask me. Another problem with the plastic is that it gets buried within the mound of seaweed that chokes the beach, making its removal all the more fun.
So we all met after siesta time, armed with bin bags and a couple of people had gloves for their dominant hand, and got stuck in. We had a speaker blasting out tunes to try and forget the incredibly depressing nature of the work we were doing. Also maybe by somehow overloading another sense it might help to block out the smell of rotting seaweed? Not sure, but worth a try.
Jemima, Lizzie and I found ourselves a patch of beach and started rifling through it, fishing out all kinds of crap. We had forks, plastic hair clips, shoes, plastic crates, rope, you name it. At one point Dave even lifted up a long strip of foil packaging,
“Anyone need a condom?” He asked with a laugh.
“Val’s gonna be a lucky lady tonight,” Justin replied, fishing out the remnants of a cloth’s peg from the muck. For context, Valerie and Dave are married. Dave laughed and chucked the package into a bin liner. I picked up an oddly shaped piece of wood and held it for a moment, wondering what it could have been before it washed up on our beach. I knew it didn’t need to be thrown away, but I was still curious about it. Maybe it was part of a piece of furniture or some kind of ornament. I held it up and asked Jemima, who was rooting through the sand beside me,
“What do you think this was before?” I asked, rotating it so that she could see it in its full glory.
“A tree.” Jemima said with such a tone of simultaneous defiance and disinterest that I burst out laughing. She glanced up at me.
“Can’t argue with that,” I said when I had composed myself a little bit more.
“This is so frustrating,” Lizzie said, walking over to where we were carrying lots of tiny pieces of plastic. “So many of them just disintegrate as soon as you try to pick them up,” It was true, especially with the thinner plastic. You tugged one end in an attempt to free what was already a small piece of plastic from the sand to have it break off in your fingertips.
“Yeah it’s so depressing,” Jemima agreed, “And so many of the pieces are just far too small to ever be able to pick them all.” I nodded in agreement as I rooted around in the plastic-ridden sand. Pieces that weren’t much bigger than the grains of sand themselves were everywhere.
“This makes me hate myself for every decision I’ve ever made about plastic,” I said.
“Agreed,” Lizzie said.