On an early spring afternoon, Tregantle Beach is bathed in dazzling light reminiscent of a painting by British landscape artist JMW Turner where sea, sky and sun merge.
“It’s lovely, isn’t it? But look at your feet,” says Rob Arnold, 65, an environmental activist and artist, crouching down to pick small plastic balls, or “scatterings,” sometimes called “mermaid’s tears,” from Cornwall. sand.
The size of a lentil, small bits of plastic are used in industry to make plastic products.
But when spilled in industrial facilities, it can be washed down drains and then out to sea.
About 11.5 trillion knots end up in the ocean each year, according to UK charity Fauna & Flora.
Once released into the natural environment, the strands are dispersed on ocean currents and often wash up on beaches and other beaches.
Because of their similarity to fish eggs, birds and other marine life will eat the tiny pellets — which also absorb toxic pollutants — negatively affecting the entire food chain, says Arnold.
He is among about 10 people taking part in a beach clean-up in Cornwall, southwest England, using a device he invented of a plastic tub, a large net and a set of tubes.
“It separates plastic waste from natural waste and sand thanks to the filtration system and water flotation,” says the former engineer.
Then he uses the collected coagulants and other microplastics—small pieces of plastic broken into larger pieces—in artwork.
Detection of layers of plastic
Several factors add to the beach’s vulnerability, says Jed Lewis, 58, who wears a khaki hoodie bearing the name of the local Beach Cleanup Association.
“This beach is particularly polluted because of its geographical location, the ocean currents that affect it, and its very open shape,” he says.
“In the fall and winter, we find most of the microplastics because of the weather: storms, thunderstorms, winds, they bring them to the surface.
“Unfortunately, the plastic remains, it doesn’t go away,” he says.
Another volunteer Claire Wallerstein, 53, says, “Sometimes it’s more like archeology.
“If you dig in the sand, you will find different layers of plastic.”
Some of the rarities go to Arnold for his artistic creations while others are used to raise awareness in schools.
The rest, which cannot be recycled, ends up in the trash and is incinerated.
Three hours later, the volunteers cleaned a few square meters of the beach.
Arnold looks at his loot – a large piece of cloth several meters (feet) high filled with sticks and other microplastics.
Once it’s dried and recounted, he can add it to the 20 million microchips he’s collected in six years that he’s storing in a friend’s garage.
like a meteorite
One of Arnold’s most notable works using columns is a 1.7-metre-high (5.5 ft) sculpture, modeled on the Moai statues of Easter Island with a mysterious past.
The work is on display at the Cornwall National Maritime Museum in the coastal city of Falmouth under the title ‘A Lesson from History’.
“It’s a metaphor for what we do here on planet Earth. We pollute our planet, using up its resources. If we destroy it, we have nowhere to go, this is our only home,” says Arnold.
For his next creation, he wants to make the small plastic pellets in a meteorite heading towards Earth, a reference to the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and the fragility of our planet.
After cleaning up the beach and packing his bags full of the animal, Arnold looks down.
“Sometimes I think of throwing all my bags into the river from a bridge. It would be so shocking that people might finally realize,” he adds.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Plastic Pollution a Scourge for the English Coastal Region (2023, 9 April) Retrieved 9 April 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-plastic-pollution-scourge-english-coastal.html
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