Adoshi: Why did you decide to focus on ocean pollution?
Colleen: I spend every day on the beach, it’s my office and where I spend my off days; the water is my lifeblood. Personally, I like to keep my office clean. I spend my days on and off removing pollutants from the beaches. You can feel that our oceans are sick and desperately need our help. Humans have touched every single corner of this planet, to the point where it’s hard to believe the word pristine even exists. Despite being aware of this, we continue to push marine life to their limits.
Adoshi: How can people become more aware of their impact on the ocean?
Colleen: Go to the ocean, stop and think. Take it all in: the waves, the wind, the sand; then look around and try to spot what doesn't belong. Straws sticking out of the sand. Cigarette butts. Plastic bags. Fishing line. Which of those could you do without?
Adoshi: Do you have any help at beach cleanups?
Colleen: I work for the Surfrider Foundation. Right now we're working on a beach cleanup database so we are able to quantify what we find at the beach. Until the day we die, we pledge to do what we can to protect our ocean. But honestly, we could really use some help. So, come join us! As the saying goes: many hands make light(er) work.
Adoshi: What pollutants do you find the most on the beach?
Colleen: There are so many, but here's how I feel about the top five of items I find at beach cleanups.
First off, plastic straws. They suck and are purposeless. You’ll use one for the duration of an iced coffee and then you throw it “away.” Straws are lightweight and are easily picked up by the wind if they’re laying around, even in landfills. We’ve been working with local restaurants to phase out plastic straws, offering alternatives like paper, bamboo, and the swaggiest, stainless steel. We’re trying to bring awareness to single-use habits. Say no to straws. If you’re not convinced yet, type search “Turtle Straw” in Google.
Secondly, Hold on to your butts please! Not only is smoking gross and secondhand smoke affects everyone, but your cigarette has a long life after you put it out. They lay around, get stepped on, ran over, bleached by the sun, and can trigger fires. Cigarettes are unfortunately the most common item found at beach cleanups. Our beaches are not your ashtray, keep your bad habits off of them!
Also, plastic bottle caps. Bottle caps are the easiest to spot at beach cleanups. You can usually tell which were left on the beach and which have washed up. Please recycle your bottles and caps together. Maybe you can keep it and use it as an ashtray!
Balloons blow, don’t let them go. One time I found a mylar “Fathers Day” balloon on Labor Day! Tangled up within bundles of seaweed you’ll find bright ribbon strings. Mylar balloons float everywhere in offshore waters. Please think twice if you're ever invited to a balloon release. If we’re being honest, better party decorations exist anyways.
Finally, Nurdles. Nothing pisses me off more than nurdles. We would classify nurdles as microplastics, which are frequently mistaken as food by marine animals. These lentil-sized plastic pellets are the raw material used for plastic production. HOW do they even up on our beaches? "Mishandling of cargo ships." Nurdles don’t even become plastic products, but they still pollute our oceans and marine life. It's not too often that I find nurdles, but when I do they're in the thousands.