Beach Trash: One Turtle, Two Turtles More

Collecting beach trash is the best way I know to help save the turtles. No doubt, it’s the least I can do.

I was sitting on a porch outside a shop, waiting for the owner to show, when a local wandered by and purposely dropped a large Styrofoam container at the base of a telephone pole nearby.  He casually walked on as if his littering was the most natural thing to do.

beach trashI was incredulous. First, I am an activist.  Secondly, I collect beach trash every single morning.  Bags and bags of it.  My inner soul could not ignore this brazen attack against Mother Nature. “Say, you just left something back here?” I said in my mother voice.  Surely, my mother voice would mean something.

“Not my problem,” he said.  And wandered on. No doubt, I was struck mute.

By this time, I was off the porch stoop with my hands on my hips.  Calm down, Tina, I said to myself.  You are a guest in this country. Still, I was seething inside. In any case, one thing I knew for sure, I was NOT going to pick it up for him and YES, he was going to pick it up, himself.  Incidentally, but how, exactly?

I tried reverse psychology.  I’m not sure what that is exactly, but my Mom always used that line on me when she insisted on getting her way, so I thought I’d give it a go.  “Look, dude, this is your country.  You’re proud of it.  You love your country. How do you think your country looks to me when I see trash littering roadsides and trash bins are RIGHT THERE?”  I shouted, pointing to the trash bin located on the other side of the street.  Did he know the bin was there?  Presumably, he was watching, but perhaps not.  Nah, probably not, since it appears he never looks for one–just drops his trash wherever he is.

“F%&& you, lady!”  Hum, this can’t be good. Ultimately, I guess my tactic didn’t work.  Even so, the dude kept on walking away, tossing his cigarette butt behind him as if giving me a message.

I stared at the messy Styrofoam container: a fish odor wafted, and oily liquid oozed.  Even if I wanted to pick it up, I felt revolted by it.  I seriously pondered what to do.  I moved away from gathering flies to reflect. Suddenly, the dude appeared out of nowhere and I watched. Dude walked over, picked up the Styrofoam box, crossed the street, and plopped it into the trash bin.

Whoa!  Did I just see that?  I smiled broadly, wondering what to do.  I wanted to hug the poor dude.  Really. Dude flicked his chin up and lifted his hand in a barely, discernable wave.  And smiled. I stomped my feet like a dancer in jubilation.

beach trashFor this reason, my morning routine consists of a sunrise beach walk. With earbuds, trash bag, dog, and Peter (my husband) in tow, we spread out to jog:  Peter, fast forward; me, slow behind; Bella the dog, a back-and-forth between us both. As NPR commentators debate the news, I sprint between the high and low tidal marks to collect trash.  In addition, writings on packages announce their origins: China, South America, and the Caribbean.


beach trashI find the most unusual items: syringes, perfume bottles, and lipstick.  Of course, eventually, you get kicked in the gut. A teddy bear near a life jacket make me cry, so I hurriedly toss them in the bag. The usual items are shoes, toothbrushes, fishing line, ropes, plastic water bottles, and buckets.  Within an hour, my bag is full, and I can’t carry anymore, so I turn back.

Meanwhile, last week I filled seven bags.  My mantra is, “one turtle, two turtles, three turtles more.” My motivation for this drudgery is because of the sea life.  Once you see a turtle entangled in a net or a sea-gull’s beak entangled in monofilament and starving, your heart stops.  Consequently, this is my part.

Finally, so where does all the beach trash come from?  Let’s break it down.

beach trash

  • Storm water discharges
  • Combined sewer overflows
  • Beach visitors
  • Ships, merchant vessels, and fishermen
  • Landfills
  • Offshore oil platforms
  • Industrial activities
  • Illegal dumping


Eben Schwartz, of the Marine Debris Program Manager, California Coastal Commission, shares her report.

Approximately 20% of the beach trash I collect comes from ocean-based sources

  • Commercial Fishing Vessels,
  • Cargo ships (discharge of containers and garbage)
  • Pleasure Cruise Ships

Approximately 80% comes from land-based sources:

  • Litter (pedestrians, motorists, beach goers)
  • Industrial discharges (pellets and powders)
  • Garbage management (containers, trucks, landfills)

Gift from the Sea

beach trashFinally, when my head is down and despair fills my heart because of the sadness that beach trash brings, I am blessed with a treasure when I least expect it: a triton trumpet! Remarkably, I am flabbergasted at the gift.

The conch shell is known amongst sailors as the ‘seashell-horn’ or ‘shell trumpet’.  When traditional craft once plied ocean waters, the triton trumpet was used as a blowing horn to announce events or the arrival of craft.

I trust when you hit the beach, you’ll have a trash bag in tow and discover a treasure just waiting for… you! For instance, traveling carries that unknown event that just happens, paradoxically. From here on, you’ll look at beach trash collecting differently.  All things considered, you just might walk back home with that prize in your bag! Moreover, you’ll look back.

For example, adventure travel is like that–you learn as you go. For this reason, getting up close and personal to a local is always a good thing. Ultimately, you learn.

Our recent adventure travel took us into Africa.  There, we journeyed with our kids into the unknown where events went wild. The kids disappeared, a thumb was sacrificed along the way…check out the book documenting our adventures, Bluewater Walkabout: Into Africa.

My adventure book trailer takes you into Africa.  I share excerpts about Bluewater Walkabout: Into Africa in my memoir book video here.

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  1. You had mentioned ‘offshore oil platforms’; I think this is a stereotyping with a broad brush. I work on an offshore platform, and there is extremely strict adherence to overboard discharge of ANYTHING. We are within 40 miles of Sable Island, a protected natural reserve/provincial park off the coast of Nova Scotia; our waste disposal is very strictly monitored.

    I cannot vouch for the practices of offshore facilities in other countries, but please be well-assured that the remote facilities in Atlantic Canada are diligent in preventing overboard waste of any sort.

    As an avid sailor, I thought if only proper to ensure that peers understand that there are some facilities aware and diligent on overboard loss prevention. Kudos to your clean-up endevours! It’s refreshing (and conversely, distressing) to see.

    1. Thank you, Robert, for your informative response. I am so pleased to hear your report about your company’s efforts in honoring dumping protocols on your rig. It contributes to worldwide efforts in protecting our oceans. Sadly, others cheat. The offshore platform worker I was referring to worked on an Azerbaijan rig in the Caspian Sea. Hopefull, ocean awareness and universal laws will catch up with the company where my friend works. Kudos to you for making those of us who reside in the Americas, proud!

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