Captain Ben checks out one summer camp’s way to re-use plastic trash: building blocks made of soda bottles stuffed with grocery bags and wrappers.

One of our goals at Clean the Bay is not only to, well, clean the bay—it’s to raise awareness about the problems of pollution and debris that plague our coast. It’s astonishing to see, as we return again and again to shores we’ve already tidied up, how quickly stuff builds up. If everybody were a little more careful about what they tossed in the water, things would improve—but even without the litter of carelessness, there’s plenty of junk that gets broken off by storms and hurricanes: stuff that no one wanted to lose, but was torn away by unruly circumstance. So there will always be cleanup to do.

Volunteers from CVS pick up trash at Bold Point in East Providence.

Though plenty of that cleanup happens on beaches where people go, and in places visible from a road or parking lot, a good deal of it happens on shores accessible only by boat; quite often laced with poison ivy and lined with slippery rocks or horrible, squashy mud. And so, to raise awareness of the whole scope of our efforts, I have prepared a slide presentation which I’m occasionally invited to show at summer sailing camps and youth programs. It’s a whimsical little show, and I trust instructive for the children who attend. At least, none of them has fallen asleep yet.

A lot of bags filled in a very short time with volunteers.

Another way in which awareness is raised is by partnering with volunteer groups to pick up litter. While the chainsaw work and heavy lifting we do day by day precludes allowing volunteers to join us for our ordinary labors, occasionally a group of volunteers will come along and gather flotsam. A box of gloves, a roll of trash bags, and off we go, filling bag after bag with water bottles, styrofoam cups, plastic caps, flip flops and drinking straws. It’s pretty satisfying to see the boat fill up with litter, even if it’s sad to see how easy it is to fill. Our last group of volunteers, from the corporate offices of CVS, filled dozens of bags in record time on the East Providence shore just by Bold Point park.

 

Children at Providence Community Boating check out the work boat.

If the attentiveness of the children who see the presentation, and the eagerness of the volunteers who pick up litter is any indication, this problem of shoreline pollution, though it will never fully go away, has a good chance of getting under control and staying that way. It will require ongoing effort, both in prevention and in actual cleanup, but on the whole I’m hopeful—and I think there’s good reason to be.