The Plastic River. There’s No Getting Away From This Problem.

Come along with me on this hike. My husband told me there were a lot of deer on this trail near our home so I thought I’d go have a look. I have this fantasy that I’ll find some antlers for garden art.

As a happy hermit, I love it when I can walk for an hour or more without seeing any other people. On this day I saw a lot of fresh deer tracks but no deer. And lots and lots of milkweed seeds floating all around.
Milkweed Seeds

The water levels are very low this year. Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have near record low levels. This river branch is nearly dry, exposing several abandoned beaver dams.

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Here’s the part that gutted me. Along with all the natural debris, the bottom of this dry river bed is filled with masses and masses of plastics and other garbage. In NoWheresVille, Canada. Far from any large cities.

Aerosol cans, bags, water bottles, plastic wrap…

Break. My. Heart. Here I was, at least a mile and a half from “civilization” and there it is. A dry river bed filled with endless reams of garbage. It is said that a majority of the plastics in our larger water ways are carried there by rivers and streams. Eventually every stray piece of trash eventually finds it way to our lakes and oceans.

Streets -> storm sewers -> streams, rivers -> lakes, oceans

Today some of the Great Lakes have a greater density of plastic particles than the horrific masses in our oceans.

We had two samples in Lake Erie that we just kept going back and rechecking the data, because the count, the number of plastic particles in the sample, was three times greater than any sample collected anywhere in the entire world…

Plastics, the 1940s wonder product that heralded the era of convenience foods and products, is not everlasting in the way we thought. Plastic gradually erodes into tiny particles which are ingested with plankton by sea animals, slowly killing them and introducing toxins and harmful chemicals into the food chain.

See this Google image search for thousands of examples….

There is so much plastic waste in our oceans now that there’s no realistic solution for removing it. Our only hope is to stop contributing to it.

We can

  • Stop it at the source. Reduce the amount of plastics produced. Reduce packaging. Employ stricter standards that put the environment first.
  • Reject it. Bring your own reusable bags. Reuse the ones you have. Choose bulk items over prepackaged.
  • Refuse. Single use plastics are the easiest to avoid: shopping bags, disposable cutlery, plastic wrap, diapers….
  • Guard it. Catch those runaway plastic bags.
  • Speak up. Ask manufactures what they are doing to reduce their use of plastics. Contact politicians. Tell everyone you know about this problem. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most famous example. Sadly, every ocean has one.
  • Google it. How many plastics can actually be recycled? Does the process justify the outcome?
  • Demand standards that make producers responsible for everything they produce from start to finish. Cradle to cradle.

Helpful Resources

See it for yourself

Making Art From Plastic Found On A Beach

One Plastic Beach from High Beam Media on Vimeo.

Also see  Thanks to Kristen for sending the beach art video link.


  1. says

    I hate that there is so much packaging on everything and its very difficult to avoid. Even cucumbers and swedes are shrink wrapped in plastic – its just ridiculous. I once asked in a shop why this was so and I was told ‘so the cucumbers don’t get dirty’ – incredible isn’t it!

  2. says

    Terrible! So depressing. I hate those plastic cucumbers that lily wrote about too. And I can’t stand those exotic mushrooms that come in styrofoam and plastic wrap. Oh and the packaging that kids toys come in…

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