Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rozalia Project Intern Blog: 1,806 Pounds of Trash

This intern blog comes from Blake Rupe. Blake may attend school in a landlocked state (Iowa), but she is dedicated to the problem of marine debris and motivated to make a difference not just by joining Rozalia Project's team, but by creating her own app making recycling an experienced shared over social media.

It was 102 in the shade in Veracruz, Mexico.  By noon, the beaches were empty because it was too hot to even swim.  They were almost empty, except for me. 

I was in Veracruz last summer completing a study for my master’s thesis on how much man-made debris was on the beaches.  Every day I would wake up, put on sunscreen, and hit the beaches with trash bags and thick gloves. I walked the same mile of rocky and sandy beaches, bent over, for eight weeks.  By the end of my time in Mexico, I was astonished by how much, and what type, of debris I kept finding.  I collected 1,806 pounds of trash, including 928 pounds of glass and 290 pounds of plastic.  Sadly, over 90% of the materials I collected were recyclable, including glass, polymers, rubber, paper, cardboard, and aluminum.  This was not what I expected to find and I realized that this experience was the reason I began to devote my life to studying the origins of marine debris and how to prevent it.

This is what has driven me to join the Rozalia Project’s mission to protect the ocean through innovation, education, cleanup and research. I hope to bring my cleanup and analysis experience to this project so that we can increase and improve the knowledge of marine debris, while also increasing my own knowledge of collection methods and analysis.  

I am excited to begin working on proven and experimental collection methods and spreading the word about our work.  Using our hands, we will collect materials on shorelines.  Using an unmanned aerial vehicle, we hope to scan hard to reach shorelines and assess the marine debris situation there.  Using a beta version of a garbage calculation app called Re-APP, I hope to improve data collection and aggregation techniques. It will be a beneficial internship for everyone.

Hopefully, using this information, I can return to Mexico in the future and work on decreasing the debris there, so that when people return to the beaches there they don’t find 1,806 pounds of garbage like I did. 

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