Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cleaning the Plastic Forest

This morning I joined volunteers with the East Coast Trail Association for a clean-up of a section of the trail below the municipal landfill. Plastic bags, styrofoam, newspapers and anything else light has blown down from the dump and filled the forest below. It's been called the "plastic forest" in the media, and there's an article here about it.

Bags had entangled themselves in the branches, were entangled in tree roots buried in the ground, and were wrapped around the bases of tree trunks. I unwrapped some 40 bags from the base of one tree. Someone compared it to being able to tell the age of a tree by the number of rings, so I joked (in the loose sense of the word) that perhaps we could tell the age of the dump by the number of bag layers.

This photo shows a heap of bags that I pulled out of a little hole to the right of the heap. Some were buried as far down as a couple of feet. The woods just kept growing around these things, the roots wrapping all around some bags and all the trees were pretty healthy-looking. So for all those nae-sayers who think we will bring about the end of all the ecosystems on Earth, well I think we may hinder them some, but life is pretty tough and adaptable.

I spent some time with a small rake trying to pull bags out of the tree-tops which was really tricky in some cases like this tree where the bags have pretty much tied themselves on to the branches.

The mound of bags of garbage that we picked up. It was a bit odd to be picking up plastic bags to put them in large plastic bags that are going to go back up to the dump from where they came in the first place. However, the garbage at the dump is now being buried straight away, so at least most bags won't be able to blow down the hill any more.

A closer-up of Sugarloaf Mountain where the trail continues on to.

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