pearls around the neck • 145
• Plastic breaks down into smaller bits. Every year we produce 60 billion tons of plastic, most of it
for single-use packaging.
• Plastic kills. To a sea turtle, a floating plastic bag looks like a jellyfish. To marine birds, the pellets
used to make plastic products resemble fish eggs.
• There is no giant “island” of plastic. There are, however, greater concentrations of plastic in
certain areas. Our oceans are becoming one giant soup of floating, man-made debris. There is no
feasible way to clean it up. The problem is pervasive and insidious.
• Plastic is everywhere. We did 21 trawls on our trip, and every one of them contained plastic debris,
even when we were over a thousand miles from land. 5 Gyres has done over 400 of trawls all over
the world. Only 2 trawls were plastic-free.
• 80% of all marine debris comes from land. Plastic bags, bottles, and other trash find their way
into our watersheds and make their way to the ocean.
• If we start acting soon, “beachcombing piracy” can remain a magical experience for generations
After this voyage, I did some vigorous brainstorming. “Start small, do it local” is what came to mind. I
am currently launching a “Ban the Bag” campaign in my hometown to ban single-use plastic bags in
grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers. That means organizing debates in colleges and secondary
schools, participating in radio talk shows, meeting with our City Council, and creating events with 5
Gyres in North Carolina. I believe that education is the key. I believe action is the answer.
Are you planning a trip to the beach soon? Will your kids unearth Banded Tulip Shells from the sand,
find skate egg cases, or maybe even a White Baby’s Ear? Will they become rich in Sand Dollars?
• Carry reusable water bottles.
• Don’t bring juice boxes - the straws and their wrappers blow away too easily.
• Every time you go to the beach, make a point of picking up at least 5 pieces of trash. And bring
them home for recycling.
No, it’s not easy to change a bad habit, but it’s beautiful to maintain a family tradition! I’m just an
average mom, with a passion to protect our beaches and oceans. I want many more treasure hunts in my
kids’ future, and I went on a 2600-mile trash hunt to help make that possible.
Find more about Valerie at:
Author: Valérie Lecoeur, USA, 2012
Illustration: Catherine Beeckman