Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Storm-bound days on kayaking trips can drive you batty. I like to think they offer opportunities for creativity. Take one day last August. Our group of 3 were 'stuck' on an island, thickly wooded (think knitted wood) on either side of our football-sized meadow. Steep but navigable cliffs to beaches on either side. I wandered down to the south-facing beach and started on one of my ongoing little projects: documenting the garbage that had made its way to and back from the ocean. But this time I saw new potential. Grabbing J (an artist), I explained our afternoon activity: arranging as many different colours and hues of garbage into a Rainbow. At one point I thought I might be on to a new grant possibility for environmental art! Imagine creating Garbage Rainbows at remote beaches to draw attention to the problem of using our oceans as dumping grounds. May still do it.
Meanwhile, some stats:
Did you know?
Time taken for objects to dissolve at sea
Paper bus ticket 2-4 weeks
Cotton cloth 1-5 months
Rope 3-14 months
Woolen cloth 1 year
Painted wood 13 years
Tin can 100 years
Aluminum can 200-500 years
Plastic bottle 450 years
(Source: Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association


Michael said...

Interesting project Alison, with an amazing array of colours. Who would have thought so many were available on a little beach walk? Sadly the oceans are full of this stuff...

Alison Dyer said...

Indeed they are, Michael. And one shudders to think of the dead zones that are now being reported on. What are we doing to these wonderful places. Perhaps we kayakers can do a 'rainbow garbage' project in each of our small areas - to raise awareness of the problem. alison

Deborah Carr said...

Love the term 'knitted wood' - a perfect description. Unfortunately, we also have knitted seas...I watched a Can. Geo. documentary last night on the plight of the whales and sharks trapped and snared by discarded fishing line.

I remember going out on a lobster boat with a local fisherman...he was a high-level-gov't exec. who escaped the ties of the boardroom to pursue the life of a commercial fisherman. Tired of the rat race and propaganda, he said. Wanted to breathe in the salt air and enjoy the sea, he said.

I was positively appalled to watch him finish a can of tuna for his lunch, then toss tuna can, pop can and plastic fork overboard.

bonnie said...

Hey, I like this idea. I will try this in Jamaica Bay when the weather warms up enough for beachcombing to be fun again.

Deborah's story reminds me of one day late last summer when I paddled out to the Atlantic. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the water out at Breezy Point was just marvelously clear. So nice - but then I was passing a great big expensive cabin cruiser that was sitting at anchor when a Corona bottle came flying out the window, landed a couple yards away...I just looked at it, bobbing off in the current - desperately wanted to get it & chuck it back in the same window out of which it had originally flown.

Wasn't sure the occupants of the cabin cruiser would think that was anywhere NEAR as funny as I did, though.

Alison Dyer said...

Deborah, that's an experience that would leave one just scratching one's head. At best. Exasperating, so difficult to understand.

This may just trigger a small kayaking/environmental art movement! Please do replicate - of a kind - and photograph. I intend to do the same this summer in other parts of the island. On the south coast in particular (off of which there's a considerable amount of shipping) there's a glut of marine garbage on remote beaches. Alison

bonnie said...

Bleah. You know, I should have known that with the wealth of trash generated by a major metropolitan area, it wasn't really going to take a lot of time to get at least a little one.

Actually what happened was I was standing up near the edge of the beach, where high water deposits most of the crap, and I looked around & realized that I could see almost every color I needed. The couple I was missing from that particular vantage point, I found within a few steps.

I shouldn't have been surprised. I'd participated in a beach cleanup that my club & a local boy scout troop did last summer. It was amazing how little of a dent we made on the stretch of Canarsie Pol where we went to work. It still mattered though, gathering statistics was part of the exercise. Did a writeup of the day & the goals here.

matthew houskeeper said...

Interesting post Alison! Nice blog.
Aside from the plastic jugs, bottles etc that you have shown, I often see those deflated gift, or birthday balloons around the shoreline.
I have also seen them far out at sea.