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Amid More Trash: Pack Out Your Garbage, Say Oregon Coast Officials

Published 08/10/20 at 6:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Amid More Trash: Pack Out Your Garbage, Say Oregon Coast Officials

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(Oregon Coast) – An ironic byproduct of COVID-19 is slightly larger swells of activity along the Oregon coast and with it a growing amount of garbage. It hasn’t reached an alarming point yet, but there’s some concern over the new kinds of trash left along beaches and how it’s piling up around dumpsters. (Photo above courtesy Surfrider Foundation).

After all, this is a time when severe budget cuts at Oregon State Parks and Recreation (OPRD) have hampered the ability to keep up with trash disposal.

Thus the message keeps coming out of places like OPRD and Visit Tillamook Coast: “Pack out what you bring in.”

As OPRD put it recently on its Facebook page: “It's easy for items like car keys, small items and now masks to fall out of pockets and packs. Before you leave your spot on the beach or in a day-use area, check to see if you've left anything on the ground and then take it with you. Thank you all for wearing face coverings in crowded areas and staying at least 6 feet away from others not with your group. You're making a difference.”

The three biggest issues are to-go containers, trash piling up around dumpsters, and masks being left on the beach.

Environmental volunteer group CoastWatch constantly keeps an eye on Oregon coast beaches and they’re starting to pay special attention to the amount of masks being dropped. Jessica Jones, volunteer coordinator for CoastWatch, said that they’ve seen a rise in reports of these.

Preson Phillips, with the Central Coast district of OPRD, reiterated that but so far isn’t too concerned just yet.

“We are finding masks on the Ocean Shore and at beach accesses, but not in significant numbers,” Phillips said. “They (masks) have become another item that gets dropped /forgotten / lost in the dark/discarded, etc. while people are recreating.”

It hasn’t alarmed staff, he said, and added the coast hasn’t seen more garbage on beaches than usual.

However, over-packed dumpsters are another story.

“The significant uptick in trash has been at beach accesses and adjoining Day-Use Parks,” he said. “With so much dining being ‘take out’ now, the 1-time use dinner ware has really over-filled our trash cans. Field staff estimate 50% more trash than in 2019. Some of this increase is due to increased visitation as well.”

Nan Devlin, head of Visit Tillamook Coast, said trash has been keeping county staff and volunteers busy.

“The biggest contributor to trash is all the take-out food as a result of the pandemic, and not being able to eat inside restaurants,” she said. “We're hearing trash is about double, which makes sense, given all the food containers. Local volunteers and Surfrider Foundation have been picking up trash. Also, trash pickup is not that frequent, so the dumpsters get full quickly. That's why you see a lot of trash bags on the ground in front of the dumpster. Here in Tillamook County, dumpsters and porta potties were placed at beaches last week that had none of those services before, so hopefully it will be better managed.”

SOLVE’s Jon Schmidt also keeps an eye on beaches, and the group is in the middle of a statewide, constant effort to organize more trash cleanups. The Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup was canceled back in March due to the pandemic, so he believes that didn’t help the refuse situation of the Oregon coast.

Schmidt and his group are more focused on solutions than exact numbers of stuff on the beaches, and indeed the Summer Beach Cleanup series has been going on since July.

“This last July, SOLVE supported fifteen beach cleanups where 400 volunteers removed more than 4,500 pounds of trash,” he said. “The Summer Beach Cleanup Series continues into August and then the Beach and Riverside Cleanup is from September 19 through October 4 this Fall. These events will be supporting beach cleanups that are smaller than previous years.”

SOLVE has noted a lot of masks everywhere in the state, not just beaches: parking lots, parks, city streets and more have been seeing them, along with some gloves.

In the meantime, he’s hoping SOLVE can help others organize their own cleanups.

“I'm happy to help volunteers create their own beach cleanups, whether they are open to the public or kept private, using our COVID-19 event guidelines to ensure they are as safe as possible,” he said. “SOLVE provides beach selection assistance, cleanup training, supplies such as bags and gloves, disposal assistance and an online registration page.”

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