Sudden Trash Slicks in Belize

Sudden Trash Slicks in Belize

Yesterday i got home, hit the sofa, logged into facebook and started scrolling.  All i was seeing was post after post about a TON of trash washing up, all of the sudden.  Reports were coming in from Caye Caulker of huge “trash slicks” as well as from North Ambergris Caye.  We have always had trash wash up, and the debate about whose trash it is, is cause for much bar room fodder.  But looking at these pictures last night, I was shocked.  These were just slicks of plastic.

The comments and posts were heated.  Everyone agrees that the trash is awful, but where’d it come from is the issue.  There are those that contend that it’s from cruise ships, those that contend its due to the recent rains washing the trash in the waterways and rivers of Belize into the ocean, and those that contend it’s from just around the whole wide world.

I walk my area’s beach several times a week with Maxi Little Head (the dog), and the South Ambergris Caye Neighborhood Watch regularly schedules beach clean ups, so it’s  pretty good area to gauge if something was, in fact, amiss.  So, this morning, i donned my Nancy Drew sunglasses, grabbed my camera and the dog and hit the beach.  I embarked on a very scientific study.  I was going to evaluate four things:

  1. Quantity of Garbage
  2. Type of Garbage
  3. Origination of Garbage
  4. Tropical Weather System

 

 

 

First, Quantity of Garbage.  I very scientifically “eyeballed” the beach.  Was it, or was it not “super gross”, or just normal “needs to be cleaned as it’s been months” gross, or “actually, pretty clean”.  I walked this beach 3 days ago, and it was in pretty good shape.  I would rate it as “maybe in a couple weeks, we’ll need a clean up”.

The beaches that are cleaned daily had that “huh, they need to clean their beach” look, while some untended beaches looked pretty much normal

An untended stretch, not bad at all

An untended stretch, not bad at all

Then the areas between seawalls, made you go “Huh, i wonder when the next SACNW clean up is?  It looks like it’s that time”.

trash collecting in the seawall corners. certainly rather quickly

trash collecting in the seawall corners. certainly rather quickly

But overall, not nearly the shocking stuff I had expected to see based on what other areas had reported, although it had gone from “maybe clean it up in a couple weeks” to “pretty fricken gross” in a day or two.

Next, Type of Garbage. What the heck is this stuff?  Well we have all sorts of garbage represented.  We have random garbage that is clearly local like water bags and plastic bags.  But mostly, it’s just random crap, just….crap.  Some of it is clearly chopped up ala cruise ship style.  Did you know they are permitted to dump their garbage only 5 miles (please, someone correct me if i’m wrong, but i think it’s that close) off shore.  They are permitted to do so, as long as they chop the bits up into small pieces.

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There are TONS of flips and flops, but never a pair.  There are plastic bottles, and loads of caps.  All the plastic caps in all the plastic world it seems, are here now.  My careful analysis concludes that there is both Cruise Ship Trash and Regular Old Garbage.

Finally, it’s Origin.  I, being the learned garbage scholar that i am, actually can draw some very facebook-ian conclusions as the origins of the Trash Slicks.  Some of it is clearly from the rivers of belize, as suggested by many a belizean facebooker.  Yup.  That’s our trash!  no doubt about it.  Then there is stuff that is so clearly *not* our trash.  We do not have Ketchup Pina in a packet in Belize.  Nope, we sure dont.

Especially for you Coleen!

Especially for you Coleen!

So, the origin of the garbage itself seems to be, shockingly, global.  Yup, the trash problem is everyone’s fault, and it’s evidenced quite clearly on the beach.

Now, someone on facebook also pointed out that in the pics of the trash in caye caulker, that the trash was barnacled and there was a lot of pumice.  Therefore, it was theorized, that the trash had traveled some distance.  Further, the large Tropical Weather Systems that went through recently, would likely have shoved it this way.  The pumice part is what caught my attention as i walked the beach.  These were not “pumice stones”.  We had Pumice Boulders.  Pumice Rocks and Pumice Chunks.  I have never seen so much ENORMOUS pumice.  I will be collecting pumice from the beach for a long time to come.  Based on the size of these things, i’d have to agree that they came from far away… i guess?

Pumice Boulders

Pumice Boulders

In conclusion, it is my opinion that the trash came from all over the world, from far away and from nearby, and that it is actually probably just a “perfect storm of trash” that made it way here, and washed up where and how it did.  However it happened, it sucks.

But, alas, it’s still a beautiful place to be 🙂  The question of who is responsible to clean it up is a wasted argument.  It’s the whole worlds’ responsibility, and it’s each single one of us. We are either part of the solution, or part of the problem.  Give A Hoot, Dont’ Pollute!

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