My countdown to summer begins as soon as I leave the beach for the last time of the last season. This past weekend, I started this summer by heading to Lake Michigan to set up our Hobie 18′ sailboat, setting up for a stellar summer. Unfortunately, the water was (way) too cold for swimming, so I walked the beach to get in my water fix for the day. Our little section of Lake Michigan is beautiful; if you didn’t know you were in the middle of the country, you might think you were at a subtropical beach. The water is pristine, but if you look closely enough, the sandy beach has been tainted with (surprise!) plastic pollution….
Growing up on this beach, as well as beaches across the country, it is immensely disappointing to find a plastic footprint plastering a natural playground. Plastic pollution is discussed mostly in terms of its presence in the oceans, but plastic is everywhere: lakes, oceans, sides of highways, scattered along sidewalks. Plastic is convenient, but nature is non-renewable.
A whale was recently found washed ashore with 80 plastic bags in its stomach. Many sea animals mistake plastic for those that make up their natural diet, such as jellyfish. When animals ingest plastic, it can block their digestive tract, which then either obstructs further food from entering, or prevents the absorption of nutrients. The result is too often a dead animal due to starvation or ill health.