Tropical Storm Brings Trash to Gwangan Beach

Last Sunday, July 12, 2015, was a turbulent day of wind and rain brought to Busan by tropical storm Chan-hom. There had been talk of a typhoon making it’s way to us, but it settled down into a tropical storm. Winds were high and the rain went from heavy to light throughout the day. This article on weather.com, states that winds were recorded as high as 47mph here in Korea.

Although it was not an ideal day for a bike ride, that’s exactly what I did during a period when the rain wasn’t so heavy. We took the boardwalk path on the way back to my apartment and were shocked by how much trash had washed up on the beach from the winds and surf. I snapped a few pictures, but most of the photos in this post are from early Monday morning, the following day. This amount of trash on the beach is extreme; there is always litter, casually dropped by beach walkers (cigarette cellophane, lighters, candy wrappers, straws, coffee cups, etc.) but the storm brought a whole array of trash.

Things that I noticed were shoes, balls, a lot of plastic drain filters, plastic beverage containers (water, soju, makgoli,) styrofoam and so on. There were great big styrofoam buoys, corners and bits from styrofoam coolers, and tiny pieces that had been broken down by the ocean. These little pieces are the ones that threaten the life of birds and fish because they resemble fish eggs so are consumed as food.

I noticed that there were still tourists snapping pictures at Gwangali Monday morning, however they were ignoring the length of beach covered in trash and instead aimed their phones at the bridge. I suppose to most people when they see a sight like that they think about how ugly it is and feel no responsibility to it so simply ignore it, but when I saw it, I wondered where was it coming from, how do we stop it, and how many innocent wildlife will die from our waste?

As I was taking pictures Monday morning, about half of the beach had already been cleaned up. Busan is great about getting crews out there every morning to make the (tourist) beaches look pristine. While the beautifying of the beach seems beneficial to us all, I can’t help but wonder if habits would change if people’s litter and trash stayed on the beach instead of miraculously disappearing every dawn.

Witnessing the debris that was washed up on the shore was depressing but also inspiring for me to question how I can decrease my impact on this finite planet even more. This month there has been a campaign online – Plastic Fee July, take a look at the link of their facebook page where you can get ideas about how to decrease your plastic use. Here’s a previous blog post of mine with tips. We can all do our small bit by carrying reusable bags, refusing bottled water, creating and using DIY cleaning/beauty products and most importantly sharing and inspiring others with our efforts.

How are you having a Plastic Free July and Plastic Free Life?


Better quality photos taken by Ben Lear.

Hosting a Beach Clean Up Event

Hosting a beach clean up event has been spinning in my mind as an idea for a while, but I was never really sure how to materialize it. It’s easy enough though to gather a few friends or a group of people and have them collect as much litter as they can, so that is exactly what I am doing.

Last month contained the American holiday of Earth Day, on April 22nd, unfortunately my event wasn’t planned in advance enough to be around Earth Day, but that really doesn’t matter. Each and every day should be a day in which we consider our constant impact on our fragile planet, and we should change our habits so that we cause less and less harm.

Together with a yoga friend, Jessica Rykert Holt, who has been leading mindful meditation gatherings in Busan, a straightforward beach clean up/yoga event has been organized at Gwangali, one of our local beaches. After a date was set for May 16th, Jessica was told of another beach clean up happening at another coastal location in our city, so we joined up to host coinciding events. The other event is through a local scuba diving group, Busan Scuba. Divers will meet and clean up Taejongdae, an island in the southern part of Busan.

Here’s what our beach clean up event will consist of at Gwangali:

  • Meet Up and Introduction – After learning some new names, I will start the event off by explaining my motivation, which is to create awareness about the harming of the oceans and lands, but more specifically, the oceans, by single use plastics such as to-go cups, straws, packaging and wrappers. Next, Jessica will speak about mindfulness and meditation and teach everyone about what they will be doing as they comb the beach cleaning up.
  • Time to Hit the Sand – After the tools are passed out (gloves and city purchased garbage bags in our case) participants will get to the cleanin’. Busan suffers from a lot of littering, both internally in the city and along the coasts and beaches. Daily I see candy wrappers, cigarette cellophane, straws and the like strewn about the beach when I walk my dog and on the streets. Not knowing the language well enough, it seems to me from observation, that people are simply ignorant of the lasting negative impact of their fluttering plastics that land on the beach and quickly find their way into the water via tides or winds.
  • A Yoga Practice, Of Course! – After all of the hard work and concentration on being mindful, everyone will reconvene at a large area on the boardwalk to lay out their mats and flow. The class will continue with the theme of mindfulness and individual impact, and will last an hour. The class will be designed for a range of students, from beginner to advanced.

It can be intimidating to put yourself out in the community and plan an event, but that should never hold you back from striking the match which lights the fire that is action. Let your little light shine! Planning a beach clean up is a great way to get some friends together and make an impact, or to make it bigger and involve locals.

This event is 5,000 won minimum donation with money going towards garbage collecting gear and the remainder being donated to http://www.projectaware.org/ an organization of divers who work towards cleaning and saving the oceans in their Marine Debris project as well as saving endangered sharks in their Sharks in Peril movement. Below is an infograph produced by Project Aware with facts about the impact of our trash.

TheUglyJourneyofTrashInfographic_PDF


Information about meditation events led by Jessica can be found the Busan Yoga & Meditation Group on Facebook.


Update on Beach Clean Up Event

Despite the fact that Saturday, May 16th started out as a dreary, cloudy, and quite frankly sort of miserable day, with temperatures much lower than they had been for a few weeks, a group of dedicated participants met me on the boardwalk for the clean up. After everyone had made their way to our meet up location, Jessica and I got things started. The event went exactly as planned and everyone did a fantastic job of filling up their garbage bags. It was unbelievable how much litter they were capable of collecting in just 40 minutes. Below is a gallery of photos.

Unfortunately, a lot more was left behind that we weren’t able to collect. The problem has to be corrected with people disposing of their waste correctly. An even better solution, in my opinion, is to drastically decrease individual waste production, by changing habits and cutting out all single use items from day to day life.