As happens every so often in Port Deposit, MD a truck (this one carrying fuel-oil) came rolling down the hill, sped across Main Street, and crashed into the railroad embankment a few weeks ago. Fortunately, no one was injured. However, the truck did end up spewing fuel-oil into a culvert, which is about 200 yards from the river. Maryland DNR was immediately notified, an environmental cleanup team was deployed, and the fuel-oil spill was contained. As part of the cleanup process orange booms were installed in the river and around our marina. Thankfully, no oil got into the river or bay and this week the environmental company came and removed the booms.
The booms trapped a fair amount of organic and man-made debris during their two month stay. So before they were removed I went down and removed the plastic bottles, sheets of plastic, plastic bags, and other items which were large enough to trap in my net. This simple act gave me a good feeling, but then I thought, what good did it really do? What I could not trap with my net, were the thousands of tiny plastic fragments on their way to the bay and the ocean.
The picture to the left and at the top shows the extent of these plastics in the water. Those colorful little specs are all micro-plastics. The image is barely discernible from a Jackson Pollock painting (below). Sadly, it is a picture of nature accumulating and breaking down our waste. I wonder if this is what Pollock had in mind in his works.
I usually don’t comment on problems without being able to offer at least some meager solution. But I have none for the problem of micro-plastics. I chatted with the environmental technician who was removing the booms. He just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, that’s just the way it is. He sees this every day in his work and has obviously become jaded — not because he doesn't care... but because he can imagine no solution.
Take a look at this video about micro-plastics. We cannot live without plastics. But we really need to learn to live with them in a more responsible way. Unfortunately, no one yet knows what that way is.