(Oregon Coast) - The big SOLVE cleanup on Oregon beaches and river recreation areas brought out more than 4,000 volunteers around the entire state this weekend, but the cleanup of tsunami debris along the Oregon coast has been going on a lot longer - and will continue to do so.
Saturday's SOLVE Beach & Riverside Cleanup saw those volunteers drag an estimated 51,600 pounds of trash and other debris off public lands, and they cleared out some 4.6 acres of invasive plants. More than 100 sites were part of the cleanup and 12 more projects are still to come.
Tsunami debris was something a lot of volunteers were looking out for, but much of that which is deemed likely to be from the Japanese tsunami had already been hauled away by previous cleanups put together by SOLVE and the Surfrider Foundation. Scientists say there appears to be a lull in sundry stuff washing up on the Oregon coast right now, though some sudden but periodic influxes of material seemed to be happening along these shores throughout the year.
Charlie Plybon, with the Oregon chapter of Surfrider, said various cleanup efforts have been conducted over recent months in response to sudden problem areas, such as at the Netarts Spit and an area south of Pacific City that was abruptly inundated with extra large amounts of plastics.
The problem – still, as always – is that it's hard to tell what is debris from the Japanese tsunami of 2011 and what is simply the usual debris that comes up out of the ocean with Asian markings.
“The short answer is we don't really have solid numbers (other than the dock itself that washed up in Newport) on tsunami debris washing ashore,” Plybon said. “This is primarily because we a) can't distinguish between most debris that washes up as clearly tsunami related, b) we're putting in a higher effort of cleanup so comparing debris numbers for last year doesn't give a true estimate, and c) we don't have a scientific baseline of what a typical marine debris year looks like.”
Over the last year, partnership cleanups between the two organization has tripled.
“We've done 21 cleanups and in the same time period last year we did nine,” Plybon said. “The participation rate in these cleanups has doubled from the average participation being 17.2 to 34.7. As a result of these volunteer cleanups, we've removed over 39,000 lbs of debris during this period.“
Because of these extra cleanups, Plybon said they've removed over 39,000 pounds of debris over the last three months prior to Saturday's beach cleanup, compared to just over 11,000 pounds in the same time period last year.
At the SOLVE cleanup this Saturday, odd items are always a highlight, however.
“Some strange items were found from a baby stroller, to piles of shoes, to giant tractor tires,” SOLVE said in a press release. “Volunteers in Florence at the Siltcoos Outlet found a buried cooler. In the cooler, they found sealed food and a receipt for the food dated 2008. In Corvallis, a statue of Father Christmas was found. The statue was given as a prize to the people's choice for best volunteer.”
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