Earth Day Reflection: Beach Cleanup at North Bar Lake Nets 89 Pounds of Single-Use Plastics and Other Trash

Photos by Beth Price Photography

FLOW teamed up with Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Surfrider NoMi, and S’well for an April 22 Earth Day Beach Cleanup at North Bar Lake in Northwest Michigan’s Leelanau County.

While North Bar is one of the most pristine inland lakes in the area, it also is prone to an abundance of trash. North Bar has a fluctuating outlet, and in the past few years it has failed to connect to Lake Michigan entirely, therefore during rough days on the big lake, plastics make their way over the sand into the outlet and trap themselves in the reeds around the inland lake. As the heart of the lakeshore, North Bar Lake is home to a beautiful, fragile ecosystem—inhabited by various fish species, birds, turtles, and mammals. Plastic pollution is a threat to that vital ecosystem.

“If beach cleanup trends don’t scream a serious need for an end to single-use plastics, I don’t know what will!” said Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak’s Ella Skrocki.

The following is a snapshot of the the beach cleanup, as told by Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak’s Ella Skrocki:

The event drew a team of 68 passionate people of all ages from as far north as Petoskey and as far south as Ann Arbor, and included the Traverse City Central girls tennis team, which chose to participate as their team-bonding activity.

The trash collected by participants weighed a whopping 89 pounds! This does not include the weight of the sacks the trash was weighed in, nor does it include the many chunks of nail-filled, treated wood we carted out. For primarily being small plastics and Styrofoam, that’s a high volume of trash! A wire basket was also retrieved from the shoreline, and is now being used to protect the trunk of a new tree. The most prominent items we found were plastic bottle caps, plastic combs, plastic cigar end tips, plastic shotgun shells, big and little chunks of Styrofoam, and just so many plastic pieces big and teeny tiny, including lightweight plastics such as that you’d find on the top of a to-go soda from a restaurant (which often disintegrated upon attempting to pick up), Flip flops, and even a plastic boat were also retrieved.

If beach cleanup trends don’t scream a serious need for an end to single-use plastics, I don’t know what will!

There is something so meditative about sitting in the sand picking up plastics, but oh it’d be so much more merry if the only thing we could find on the beach was pebbles and Petoskey stones. But oh how coming together as a community to do some do-goodin’ and make a positive impact on the ecosystem is such a rewarding experience.

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