Saving Our Oceans…One Road at a Time!

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest AmeriCorps Member Lauren McKenna

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In 30 minutes, one class of Valley Catholic High School students did a litter cleanup around their school in Beaverton, OR. Here’s a glimpse of what litter they found:

1 Plastic bottle

2 Road plastic reflector 

9 Tennis balls

10 Plastic coffee lids

15+ Candy wrappers

5 Balloons

1 Shoe

1 Rubber car piece

1 Cardboard box

1 Tissue pack

75+ Cigarette butts

This is not even looking at gazillion shreds of food wrappers and plastic bags, tires, discarded carpets, and Styrofoam pellets that were too heavy to lift, too numerous to collect, or too far underneath blackberry brambles to reach.

Litter areas for tomorrow

Notice the area around Valley Catholic School… a lot of impervious parking lots and roads, especially in the north-east corner.

Litter is not just an eyesore.  Take a look at your neighborhood and at what surfaces are impervious — like parking lots, roads, concrete and rooftops that do not let water soak through them (see map below).  Whatever trash, as well as oil and sediment, is on these impervious surfaces get washed into the nearby creek.  And where do all waterways lead?….. to the ocean!

Currents in the Pacific ocean converge in the North Pacific Gyre.  That is where the North Pacific Garbage Patch is … twice the size of the continental United States and contains 100 million tons of plastic and outnumbers plankton 6 to 1!

This is a photo of lanternfish (Mytophids) and microplastic debris collected at the surface in the North Pacific gyre (Credit: James Leichter/Marine Photobank)

Plastics do not biodegrade like, for example, your compost pile does.  They just break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, which can absorb toxins like mercury, DDT and PCBs.  Animals mistake the plastic for food and fill up, but often starve to death because they are full of plastic, not food.  Plus the toxin bioaccumulate as you go up the food web.  About 1 million seabirds and 1000,000 marine mammals die each year from ingesting or getting tangled in marine trash. (Facts source: Surfrider Foundation)


About 80% of marine debris comes from the mainland.  Check out these links for ways YOU can reduce your use of plastic and save your oceans!

Surfrider Foundation: Rise Above Plastics

SOLVE’s Tsunami Debris Response 

And sign up for the SOLVE Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup on March 30th here!


THANK YOU to teacher Erin Cole and her class!

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