Morro Bay, CA

Let's Stop Trashing the Morro Bay Strand. (And All Our Beaches)

Michael Burg, MD

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Over three pounds of garbage!

That's what I picked up during a recent, non-holiday, short, mid-morning, mid-week stroll on the Morro Bay Strand. And, I wasn't looking for it nor was I part of an organized clean-up effort. Just an ordinary citizen out for a walk on what should be a pristine stretch of beautiful beach.

Here's some of it!

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Author's photograph of a small sample of trash he collected.

Which would you rather look at, "The Rock" or this rot?

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Author's photograph of "The Rock" at Morro Bay

In addition to the depressingly-usual assortment of cigarette butts, plastic caps, plastic bottles and bits of paper, I found face masks (potentially infectious when first discarded), used baby wipes (again potentially infectious) and a full diaper (not in the picture, but definitely infectious). I also stumbled across two 9-inch-long medical-grade forceps. Each one could easily pierce a foot. On other days I've found other sharp objects - broken glass, bbq parts, a large antenna and the ribs from an umbrella. Then there's enough plastic children's toys -- spades, shovels, rakes and cups -- to build a dozen sand castles. Discarded party decorations and supplies abound - ribbon, gift wrap, broken balloon bits. Who has a party in paradise and then helps ruin it for the next people who want to celebrate? Plastic knives, forks and spoons also littered the landscape.

Bear in mind that all this trash is within several yards of the Western Snowy Plover protected nesting area. It's also close to many other birds who peck at it and ingest some of it, leading to harm. Additionally, much of this stuff is swept into the ocean where it causes not only pollution but harm to all forms of sea life. We--humans--are dependent on healthy oceans for life itself. It trash helps kill ocean life, that kills us too.

Suggestions for improvement

I'm not trying to play parent here, but we can do better than this, waaaay better.

I'd humbly suggest we live by the adage "leave it better than you found it." Before you leave the beach, have a look around and pick up completely after yourself. If you haul off a few bits of trash that were left by others ... so much the finer. Thank you in advance for your kindness. You're making the beach better for all, including you, your family and your friends.

Watch your kids. If they scatter stuff about, encourage them to clean up after themselves and help them do it. That seems like part of good citizenship teaching.

Be particularly mindful of dangerous debris. I can speak from personal experience when I say that it is absolutely no fun whatsoever to step barefoot on a recently-discarded and still-hot-enough-to-burn cigarette butt. If you must smoke, please fully extinguish the butt (there's plenty of water around) and take it with you. This is also particularly true for sharp objects (bottles become sharp objects when broken). Enjoy your beverage, and take the empties home with you to recycle.

Ditto for the medical-grade hardware. If you're performing operations on the beach, bravo! But please take your instruments back to the office Doc!

If you take these suggestions, who knows, maybe you'll be a role model. Not only will your family and friends see you doing the right thing and pitch in, but strangers may witness your behavior and be motivated to start their own clean-up plans. I certainly noticed many watching me as I canvassed the beach stooping repeatedly to pick up trash.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture. Let's clean up the beach and keep it that way. It'll be good for all of us.

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San Luis Obispo, CA
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