Erase The Trace Waterway Ethic
Where does the trash end up when it enters our waterways?
Trash enters the watershed a number of different ways. Much of the garbage enters on streets, then flows into ditches which in turn flow into rivers. These rivers eventually transport millions of tons of trash to the ocean. Once in the ocean, nonbiodegradable trash floats around the ocean until it gets caught in one of the six current gyres. These gyres are areas where the current spirals slowly and once floating garbage enters these areas it will never leave. The largest of these oceanic vortexes is the North Pacific Sub Tropic Gyre, which is 10 million square miles (3 times the size of texas). At the center of this area is millions of tons of garbage floating on the ocean's surface. The surface only represents a fraction of the trash out there because much of it has sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
A turtle deformed by growing around a piece of trash.
What is Erase The Trace Waterway Ethic?
Erase The Trace is a waterway ethic that we can all adopt as our own. Similar to "Leave No Trace" Wilderness Ethic, Erase The Trace encourages being aware of our surroundings to keep them clean and prestine. Erase The Trace promotes removing the trace left by others. This means that when you walk, surf, or paddle by a piece of trash, try and take it with you and throw it away. The garbage around our lakes and rivers that gets removed is garbage that is removed from the worlds watershed and does not continue to pollute.
A First Hand Experience...
"I stand up paddleboard on the New River a few times a week. My favorite area on the river is a high use area. For the most part everyone respects the river as a resource that they want to preserve. Even with that said, there is still trash left in the parking area or near the river bank. This trash will eventually find its way into the river in the next rain or get swept down stream by periodic flooding. What is easy for me is to keep some kitchen trash bags in my car at all times. When I am leaving the river to head home, I try pick up all the trash that I see from where my car is parked and what is near the rivers edge. This usually takes 3 minutes and usually fills up one of these kitchen trash bags. I take the bag home with me and throw it away next time I take out the trash." I didn't always have this proactive mentality. It was the birth of my daughter, she got me thinking that I want her to be able to swim and play in the same waterways that I enjoy. Evey time I get out on the water I seem to have great experiences that I take with me, clean up a little mess is a way that I can give back and instantly see a difference.
Spead the word by example...
If you take action everyone else will notice. The simple act of picking up trash in front of others will spark awareness. When an area is prestine, trash is frequently not forgotten and this is because trash looks out of place. If there is trash everywhere then more trash will just blend into the surrounding garbage. If you are carpooling to surf, kayak, or just get out on the water, have everyone just take a minute to pick up some trash before you leave.
Trash is dirty...
Exactly so we should not leave it near water to continue polluting. Have some latex gloves in your car with the trash bags. Another way to keep clean is to have disinfectant hand wipes with your in your car.
Its not my trash...
Yes it may not be, but the the waterways are yours and everyone elses. What if you accidently and knowingly dropped a piece of trash. You would want someone else to pick it up and through it away before it got into the water.
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