You may have heard about the plastic soup that is in all of the oceans and can go for hundreds of miles. It is made up of small bits of plastic, including polyester and acrylics from clothing. They have found similar patches in the Great Lakes. These patches have, in some cases, more pieces than those in the oceans, as many as 650,000 per a 5 square block area. This is a dubious honor. For more information you can go to this link.
Loyola Beach has some wonderful beachcombers who pick up trash routinely. The dune area generally has very little visible garbage, and what does exist is usually picked up either by the Park District staff, or by our friends and neighbors. We are grateful. If you slow down and look, though, you will see a bottle cap here, a piece of broken pen, a part of a straw, the mouthpiece for a cigarillo. All are on there way to becoming the small pieces of plastic floating in the Lake.
This plastic is consumed by birds and fish and can lead to starvation. Those animals that live by eating the plankton they strain from the water can’t sort through what is and is not food. Additionally, plastic is a good absorber of toxins due to its petroleum base, so toxins can accumulate in the plastic eaten by fish and birds in a higher concentration than one would normally find in the Lakes. Those animals that eat the fish and birds are at risk as well. This includes us.
In early April we had the first clean up of micro trash on Loyola Beach. Forty students covered the area looking for bits, each with a paper bag. It was surprising how much they found on a clean looking beach. For pictures of that day please visit the Facebook Page.
So, what can be done? Next time you are at the beach, slow down and look, see what there is. Slowing down is beneficial in and of itself. If you see a ribbon from a balloon or some bright piece of plastic from a broken toy, pick it up, throw it away (recycle in the blue bins). Catching these pieces before they become too small to see (but not to small to be eaten) is extremely useful. Please know that we are all appreciative of any efforts.