Plastic Poem, Plastic Plague


Fifth Estate # 324, Fall, 1986

Plastic Poem

Yellow garbage bag ties

pieces of ziplock bags

whole ziplock bags and baggies

tips of tiparello cigars

orange bread bag ties, green ones

juice bottle top

milk bottle top

camera lens cover

pieces of pampers disposable diapers

toy soldier

toy truck wheel


coffee stir

pieces of bic pens

bic pen top

toy rudder

piece of yellow comb

orange elmer’s glue cap

black binocular lens cap

many caps of many unidentified things

many nondescript pieces of things in many colors

pieces of fishing line, pieces of netting’

blue baby doll brush

baby doll arm

toothpaste tube cap

nyquil cold medicine cup

tampon applicators—everywhere

bic cigarette lighters—everywhere

cigarette filters—everywhere

pieces of styrofoam cups and plates

straws—red and white striped, blue and white striped

pieces of forks and knives and spoons

six pack beer can yokes

shotgun shells

pieces of balloons—green ones, yellow, blue and red

champagne cork.

Let’s celebrate.


The sand cannot cover this.

The earth cannot bury this.

The lake cannot swallow this.

—Sara Loosestrife, White Pine Beach, Point Pelee, Ontario, August 31, 1986

Plastic Plague

—More than five million plastic containers are dumped into the ocean each day by the shipping crews of the 50,000+ ships that sail the seas.

—Commercial fishermen alone dump more than 50 million pounds of plastic packaging into the sea each year and lose some 300 million pounds of plastic nets, lines and buoys.

—Participants in an Oregon beach cleanup two years ago collected 26 tons of garbage in three hours.

—2,000,000 seabirds, several hundred thousand mammals and turtles die every year because of plastic ingestion.

—90% of albatross chicks on Laysan Island have some quantity of plastic in their digestive system.

—Plastic banana bags dumped from docks in Costa Rica are found in the digestive tracts of sea turtles which probably mistake the bags for jellyfish—one of their favorite foods.

—Lost fishing nets trap and entangle fish and other water wildlife. A single piece of netting, recovered in the North Pacific contained one hundred dead seabirds and two hundred dead salmon.

—Each night, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean fishermen set out eight-mile long, twenty-six foot deep nets, stretching 20,000 miles of invisible netting. Each morning when the nets are retrieved, an average of ten miles of netting escapes detection, continuing to entrap and kill fish. Thousands of miles of old, deteriorated nets are consciously left behind or dumped overboard each year.

—Each year ten times as many fur seals killed by native Alaskans are killed when they become caught in plastic netting left out by commercial fishermen.