A litter-covered beach in Costa Rica is making me break up with single-use plastic

Most days, the beaches looked pristine. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

I’m trying to break up with single-use plastic. You should too.

Last month, on the first day of a surf camp I attended in southern Costa Rica, I woke up early and walked across the street, only to discover a sort of confetti stretching for miles down the beach. Pulverized bits of plastic – red, blue, yellow and white chips the size of your smallest fingernail – covered the the sand in swirls. Waves had washed the chips up with the surf, leaving behind a kind of litter mosaic.

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I love the “Take 3 for the Sea” movement that encourages surfers – and anyone, really – to pick up three pieces of trash every time they go to the ocean. But the fragments on the Costa Rican beach that day were far too numerous and far too tiny to easily cart away.

One day, pulverized bits of plastic washed up all over the beach where I stayed in Costa Rica. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

The next day, the plastic had washed back out to sea (where fish and dolphins and rays and lobsters wallowed in it, no doubt), but the image stuck in my mind. It made me feel hopeless about the massive quantities of plastic funneling into the world’s oceans.

Our plastic use seems to be increasing. Have you seen all the new products at the grocery store? Pre-packaged servings of crackers, cheese and sausage. Plastic tubs of hummus. Plastic bottles of water. Single-serving containers of olives, applesauce, yogurt and cookies, plastic utensils, baggies, straws, disposable plates and more.

All those products eventually wind up in the landfill, or blowing down a highway someplace, where they ultimately break into smaller and smaller pieces and slowly  make their way to our oceans.

We’re beholden to convenience. But I’m tired of it. We don’t have to be this way.

I’m drawing a line in the sand – that Costa Rican sand – so to speak. I’m determined to reduce my consumption of single-use plastics.

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I know sometimes it’s unavoidable to use these products. But usually it’s just as easy to fill your own glass with water, dole out your own serving from the applesauce jar, or tuck a snack into a reusable plastic tub to transport to the office.

I’m doubling down on my efforts. Please join me. And share your tips here.

Author: Pam LeBlanc

Pam LeBlanc writes about fitness and travel for the Austin American-Statesman. She has worked for the Statesman since 1998 and written her weekly fitness column, Fit City, since 2004.

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