GETTING THE TRASH OUT OF THE SPLASH IN ALABAMA // SERIOUS WORK // HUGE IMPACT

An annual event called “Alabama Coastal Cleanup” will be held on September 20, 2014, all along the coasts of our “Alabama the Beautiful” state, in an effort to keep it that way. For the twenty-seventh time, volunteers will gather at several locations along our border with the Gulf of Mexico to collect debris left by beach and water users as well as stuff washed from the land and carried by our mighty river systems that dump into Mobile Bay. Coastal Cleanup will occur all around the coasts of the United States and some other countries, too, on the same day.
Each time someone on the beach opens a bag of chips and leaves the bag NOT in a trash receptacle it does not disappear, but becomes litter. Each time a baby’s diaper is changed and the used one left on the sand it does NOT disappear. Each time a boater dumps ice into a chest and tosses the plastic bag over the side it does NOT just go away. If each beach/water user were to leave even one trash item behind there would be nothing but litter all over the beaches and in the water! Fortunately, most have learned to place trash into collection barrels. Most have learned to be good stewards of this natural resource by doing the right thing. Yet, there is still education to be done by parents, teachers and and anyone involved in youth and/or adult activities. Some adults need some reminding, too.
Items composed of any type of plastic take a very long time to degrade and may become hazards to marine and other animals and humans. Sea turtles may mistake bags for jelly fish, a normal part of the turtles’ diet. This plastic, of course, is not any kind of food and cannot be digested but may become lodged in the digestive system and cause the animal to starve to death. The plastic could become a choking hazard and since sea turtles don’t have gills they would asphyxiate.
Mono-filament (fishing line) is another very dangerous material when improperly disposed of or lost during fish harvesting that can cause animals to become entangled and unable to care for themselves and die needlessly. This line can also become wound around a boat propeller and other marine machinery causing mechanical problems. Injury or even death might possibly occur for a diver due to entanglement. There are proper receptacles for mono-filament marked and easily found at fishing areas.
According to data gathered from prior Coastal Cleanups, cigarette butts (55 million) constitute about 25% of the types of items collected. Wikipedia reveals that the filter is usually cellulose acetate and not degradable. Filters are small and may be mistaken as food by shore birds or other animals that visit the beach. Any responsible smoker knows to “field strip” his or her butt and place the remains in a proper receptacle.
Though our shoreline is very small compared with California or Florida, it is still very important to us due to its relative closeness and beauty. Tourists and others sometimes take samples of Gulf of Mexico beach sand to show others how very white it is. Our shoreline is certainly worth the effort to preserve and enhance its beauty and cleanliness.
Water from the Mobile River and the Tensaw Delta drains up to one fourth of the fresh water of our country into the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile. The marsh areas where the salt and fresh waters meet are the natural nurseries for gulf fish that many of us like to catch and eat and it also supports the salt water fishing industry. Most of the water that one might observe flowing by in the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa ends up in the Gulf of Mexico along with whatever has been put into it. Though ,this part of our coast may not have beaches suitable for swimming it is still affected by trash and is very important to our ecosystem.
September 20 is the last day of summer and the beach is very beautiful and mostly vacant because the majority of the tourists have gone home. Coastal Cleanup participation is a great excuse and reason to go to the beach one more time and do something beneficial for the environment, too. It is the “off” season so there are many motel rooms and condos available. Even better, Gulf State Park is a short distance east of the junction of Highway 59 and Highway 182 In Gulf Shores and much less expensive. The park has many camp sites with water, power and sewage. Bath houses are located strategically so that no camper is very far away and they are air conditioned! The park extends to the gulf water with a very wide expanse of beautiful beaches. A boardwalk is at one of the locations and enables one to cross the dunes with out harming the eco- system of the dunes or frying one’s feet! There is also a park beach pavilion offering shelter from the sun and stormy weather that might come up and has restrooms. Since the last major hurricanes that damaged much along our coast, Gulf State Park has added many nice facilities and improved the ones already there.
September 20 offers an annual opportunity for participation in a nationwide exercise called Coastal Cleanup. Seventeen sites are listed for Baldwin County and six for Mobile County. www.alabamacoastalcleanup.com is the web site for information or call 251.621.1216. A participant will be given a collection bag; a score card for indicating the type and amount of refuse gathered; gloves; and a pencil. Working in partners is recommended by the writer. Care for your body with sunscreen, insect repellent, a wide-brim hat, sunglasses and a water bottle. The mechanical pinchers for gathering trash/nuts without having to bend down save backs and are a safer way of picking up glass, and other sharp objects. Debris collected is turned in at noon and weighed. Collectors are then given T shirts of the the event and usually treated to a light lunch.
Explore Alabama as a volunteer and enjoy the beach and ocean at the same time by joining somewhere in the Alabama Coastal Cleanup and “Get the Trash Out of the Splash!”

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