Litter Story

A monofilament recycling tube is used to properly dispose of fishing line at Salt Lake in the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. Balloons and fishing line are the park’s biggest issues when it comes to litter.

The yellow bottles on the shores of Brazoria County read “vinagre.”

The reason the word might not appear familiar is because it’s not written in English. The pale yellow bottles wash ashore after traveling all the way from Haiti, Quintana Beach County Park Manager Patty Brinkmeyer said.

Too often, visitors to Brazoria County beaches leave trash sitting in the sand, either due to full waste bins or pure laziness. They then leave, assuming the ocean tides will find a new home for their unwanted trash.

But there is no great incinerator at the bottom of the Gulf that takes care of the waste. Instead, Haitians are likely scratching their heads over what the heck a “lite” beer is.

Trash left on the beaches, especially plastic, often ends up being someone’s problem. And worse yet, it’s animals that often get the worst end of the deal.

“A large number of animals are affected by plastic, especially in the ocean,” said Mike Mullenweg, lead interpretive ranger of the Brazoria County Parks Department.

Brinkmeyer said the pale yellow bottles are often found with triangle-shaped bites from sea turtles looking for a snack.

That bag of trash or those cans of beer end up somewhere, even if it’s not here.

Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Ocean is littered with garbage. Bodies of birds once searching for food decompose to reveal plastic trinkets they swallowed over the course of their lives.

The nearest city to Midway Atoll is Honolulu, which is more than 1,300 miles away. But according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, much of the debris comes from China and Indonesia.

And the story is the same here. According to Brinkmeyer, 80 to 90 percent of garbage found on Brazoria County beaches didn’t originate here.

It might seem to some that cleaning up our own act is a waste, especially if someone on the other side of the Gulf isn’t going to do their part. But all of this adds up. This trash can end up back in the human food cycle over time when animals mistake the garbage for a meal.

It all starts with a bit of effort. Treat the beach like any park where you would pack in and pack out, taking every item you brought with you. When fishing, locate the numerous fishing line disposal locations along the coast.

There are stewards of the beach who do their best to keep it pristine, but that bag of trash someone left sitting on the shore didn’t just find a new happy home.

In this case, one man’s trash is another’s problem.

This editorial was written by Alec Woolsey, assistant managing editor of The Facts.

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