We’re staying at a terrific little beachside resort on Ambergris Caye in Belize. It offers snug, thatch-roofed cottages, excellent food, a beautiful beach, and an infinity pool, among many other amenities. Every day, resort workers rake the sand, cart away excess sea grass that has washed ashore, and leave the beach in the pristine, white sand state that resort-goers demand.
Just down the Caye, however, is an unattended section of beach, and here we get a glimpse of the impact of our plastic, disposable, consumer culture. Belize lies at the western end on the Caribbean, where the prevailing winds blow. On this section of beach every imaginable bit of disposable debris — a huge range of differently sized bottles, jugs, tubs, bits of strofoam, storage containers, and even soccer balls — have collected on the sand, mingled with the sea grass. It’s disgusting, and unsightly, but mostly it’s sad. Whether through thoughtlessness or inadvertence, the human plastic culture has left its ugly mark on an otherwise pretty beach on a fine, sunny morning. If one small section of beach is bears this gross collection of crap, we can’t really begin to imagine the impact of the junk on the sea as a whole.