I picked up lots of trash at North Padre Island National Seashore this weekend.

If you need convincing that we’ve got a plastic problem on our planet, take a stroll on the beach.
When a weekend scuba diving trip got cancelled, I headed to the Texas coast to dip my toe in the surf.

Some of the trash had washed in from the ocean.

I got distracted between sets of leaping through the waves at North Padre Island National Seashore. Fishing nets, ropes and other flotsam had washed up on shore, and beach goers had left plastic bottles, empty plastic sacks and broken bits of plastic toys all over the beach. Pulverized bits of colorful plastic, along with enough plastic bottle tops and utensils to fill a backyard swimming pool, littered the edge of the dunes. I found a couple of dead seagulls, too, and wondered if their bellies were full of plastic chips.

I know some of the junk had floated in from the ocean, but plenty of it was tossed there by lazy beach goers. I’ll never understand the mindset of someone who ditches their single-use items in a national park – or anywhere. I wish I could load it into a dump truck and deposit it in their front yard, or fill their car with it.

I found a bunch of plastic sacks. Pam LeBlanc photo

A sign posted near the beach encourages visitors to take away more than they bring. As I walked up and down the beach, I picked up some of the trash. Imagine if everyone took away more than they brought.

And it’s not just Texas beaches. During a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, a walk on a beach turned up a bunch of plastic doll heads. (Creepy!) A trip to surf camp in Costa Rica last summer introduced me to a whole beach coated in pinky fingernail-sized chips of plastic.

I wonder if any of the dead birds had eaten plastic. (Sorry, I know this is not pretty, but it is reality.) Pam LeBlanc photo

I can’t stand to see beautiful places choking in garbage. We’ve got to all do our part to use less plastic in the first place, and properly dispose of what we do use.

Remember that saying? Take Three for the Sea. Any time you’re at the beach (or lake or river or back country) pick up three – or 103! – pieces of trash.

Our most beautiful places appreciate it. And I do too.




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