My eyes followed the waves as they rolled up onto the beach, traveling along this carved-out sanctuary guarded on one side by enormous cliffs and the other by a body of water that was so large in person but seemed so small on a map. The rolling waves made time feel weightless, hours spent on the tiny beach could be filled with the lulling sound of water. The feeling of peace was strange, living in such a large city constantly consumed by the unnatural sounds and scenes of cars, concrete, and people this piece of nature made it oh so easy to be loved. I enjoyed walking along the line created as the waves pushed and pulled their way onto land. The saturated compacted sand contrasting the loose pebbles and micro-grains of rock. But just because I loved and respected this tiny piece of nature, the scattered remnants of cigarette buts, straws, Styrofoam, and other miscellaneous items told a different story.
The tale of two worlds in constant battle, one consuming the other. These items had their own stories but now were placed in a backdrop of earthy tones that did not match their colour palette. This starkness made my job easy, collecting the misfit items and disposing of them far away from this safe place, but sometimes it felt like it was unending. Sometimes the magnitude of misfits was so daunting it brought weight to time. No longer feeling endless, the presence of misfits made my peace feel finite.
But I am whelmed, pushing down these feelings of sorrow. I take a breath. Today I had a new task. As I traveled along my favourite place I was searching for a new kind of misfit, one that could easily disappear into its surroundings due to its size and shape. A smooth, round opaque piece of plastic that was smaller than the size of a pea, closer to the size of a tiny pebble. My eyes had to be keen, and I also had to rely on the feeling of touch. With each step, I carefully surveyed the area, picking up anything that could be a suspect. Detective Plastic micro division busting those tiny misfits that didn’t belong. I think in stories, and this narrative made the hunt more entertaining. To serve and protect biodiversity and ecosystems that could not speak for themselves.
In our society plastic was a star for its durability, in theirs it was often the kiss of death. Dark but true, these tiny misfits are very resistant to degradation. Their size made them tricky to keep track of once they were lost in transportation, whether they fell off trains, boats, or the factory floor they would often make their way into the water system and persisting in an environment was their specialty. So, as I return to my favorite place, again and again, I find hope in taking up my role to do my part, manually removing the misfits piece by piece.
A note from the author:
Microplastics studies and clean-ups are so important for the health of our environment. By collecting data and developing indicators for our environment, we can document the magnitude (and sometimes even the source) of the problem while also helping to evaluate the effects of the innovative solutions and policies that are developed. This in turn aids in determining if the international and federal goals set out are realistic and achievable to address plastic pollution to protect our oceans, lakes, and waterways!
Submitted by: Edana Golbourne