Floating Plastic Debris

I always say "The tides are constant, but what they bring never is." Sadly, the tides tend to bring a variety of garbage into the harbor. Usually it consists of plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups; we even had an entire tire and rim wash in once.

These lightweight pieces of plastic originate as litter that had been discarded in an inappropriate way, either being tossed on the side of a road, or into an overflowing trash receptacle. These debris end up being washed away with the next rainfall. To a land based observer, it may appear that the rain has washed the street clear of debris. All the trash is gone!

Trash never goes away, it simply gets relocated. The rain runoff tends to carry lightweight plastic debris off to the storm drainage system. In Baltimore, these consist of grates placed over large holes that pipe the runoff directly into the harbor. All of these pieces of plastic then float along the surface until they are washed up on the shoreline or swept out to sea to contribute to the immense trash gyres of the oceans. After a rain, the waters surface is peppered with small floating pieces of trash, slowly being carried away by the wind and current. 

After the storms pass, the water seems to clear up! All the trash has been whisked away from our immediate area and from our minds as well. The water seems cleaner and the birds more vibrant as they fly around and swim in the harbor water around the boats. Then the tide begins to come back in.

The incoming tide is not signaled by strong currents or rushing water, but rather a sea of trash approaching! As the tide returns, it also returns the trash that had been swept away hours earlier.

The ducks begin to swim more cautiously as they move between the floating waste and the seagulls take to the skies.

At high tide, we float in a sea of debris. 


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