Whilst I look forward to summer in Scheveningen, I also know that it means I'll see ridiculous amounts of rubbish at the end of the each day. To my delight this summer was better than previous ones. I think this might be due to the fact that plastic bags can no longer be issued for free in the Netherlands which probably did a lot in terms of awareness. However with less rubbish overall I started to notice discarded, washed-up and forgotten beach toys.
At first I picked them up and threw them in the bin. Then when I heard that my friend Lisa was looking for beach toys for her daughter River, I decided to start collecting what I found and it is truly shocking.
This collection was found over a period of about five weeks, mostly during the month of September. I typically found them in the evening along the shore line when most people had packed up and gone home. Many items also washed up on the beach, usually after a storm.
I'll admit, I love toys and have a pretty grand collection myself. But to see all this plastic on the beach breaks my heart. If I hadn't picked it up, this plastic would have ended up in the ocean. A lot of these toys probably got lost and whilst that's sad, I can't help but feel that parents have a responsibility to make sure their kids don't leave their toys behind even if they are broken. It's so easy not to care when it only costs a couple of euros for an entire set! No wonder the incentive to find or pick up your own toys isn't there.
Below are some photos of this summer's collection. I tried to get creative! I depicted a plastic version of the "Life of Pi" and a hammerhead shark. I found some trawlers and if you look carefully you'll even see a bit of fish net, a truck dumping plastic bottle caps, several plastic guns and to top it all off, I found Captain America's shield! Not sure what Captain America can do for the ocean, but if he's listening, please HELP save our ocean! I tried to depict a theme of a fish filled with plastic, swimming in a reef. The fish is caught on a hook (snorkel) only to be eaten by humans.
The story goes we are choking our ocean with plastic. Some scientists estimate that within a few decades there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. If you don't believe me, google it and you'll find some pretty scary yet credible studies. The thing is we're taking too many fish from the ocean and dumping way too much plastic in it (a staggering 8 million tons a year!!!) Plastic breaks down into microplastics which get ingested by fish and other marine life where it accumulates (bio-accumulation). If we eat fish we will accumulate that plastic. That's what the plastic Pacman-looking figure is supposed to depict.
I have thought about what I am going to do with these toys. The plan for now is to try and exhibit them on The Pier in Scheveningen, reminding folks that even something as innocent as a toy can cause so much destruction. Once the exhibit is over I'd like to donate them to a good children's charity. One friend suggested opening a toy library. Great idea but I am not sure that would work in the Netherlands. If you're Dutch and you think it will, let me know! If you have any ideas feel free to send a comment either here or in the contact section.
Thanks for reading! - Farah