A few years ago I received a complimentary copy of the magazine “The Economist” from the Governor General of Belize, Sir Colville Young, who is an avid reader of the column “Twenty Five Years Ago”. Incidentally, he also decorated me with the medal as Member of The British Empire. Anyway, there was an article entitled “Beach combing- beach debris from Ducie Island.
We used to call beach combing “Playar” in Spanish. Things on the beach are the mess that careless people dump into the sea, but at times there were some useful things. What do you see today? Here is what we used to find on the beach.
*Glass bottles - these we used to clean and used them as containers for water or other household uses.
*Bottle tops or caps - these were useless.
*Plastic bottles - these were used if they were clean as water bottles by the coconut farmers.
*Small glass buoys - were mostly hung on fences for decorations. There were tons of these and in the 1970’s they started selling for a dollar a piece. People pay up to fifty dollars for one of these now.
*Large glass buoys - these were hung from the ceilings as decorations, especially in bars. Some were cut and light bulbs were inserted in them. These sold for 5 dollars in the 1970’s and there are people who pay as much as four hundred dollars for one of these today.
*Rubber or styrofoam buoys - these were collected by fishermen and were used as floats on the seine nets.
*Pieces of rope - the thin ones were used to tie dories, to tie hammocks, or for the clothesline. Thick ones were sold to owners of large ships. Nobody passed a piece of rope on the beach and did not pick it up. Today I see some thick ropes used as speed bumps on the streets.
*Pieces of plastic pipes - these were used to hit dogs, kill iguanas or crabs, etc., as you walked along the beach. There were many stray dogs that attacked you along the beach.
*Shoes - were used just for fun to walk along the beach. Nobody wore shoes 25 years ago.
*Sandals - were picked up and later used to walk among the burrs when one went to the bush. They were also used to walk on grassy areas where there was the fear of being stung by a stingray.
*Jars - were collected and used to store nails, screws, and spices in the kitchen.
*Crates - were picked up and used as crates.
*Copper sheeting from hulls of shipwrecks - were collected and bent into compact pieces to be used as sinkers for the seine nets or even the cast nets.
*Aerosol cans - these were always picked up, and if they had any paint, one would play around with them. It was always fun spraying.
*Food and drink cans - these were picked up and you would read the label and longed for the day that you could taste such delicious foods or drinks.
*Fluorescent bulbs - these were immediately broken just for the fun of it. Children would cast a stone to measure his air. Of course we got a good scolding, but we could not resist the temptation of making a little explosion. (Note that there were no fluorescent fixtures any at all in San Pedro in the 1950’s nor 60’s nor 70’s.)
The list goes on, but will have to do a part two next week. Do we still have these items on our beaches today? Where does all this trash come from? Who throws it in the sea and from how far? How come it gets to our beaches? How long does it take to get here? Some of these questions may never be answered, but 25 years ago we tried to make good use of most of these materials.