State puts out bins for tsunami flotsam

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer June 29, 2012 09:34 pm

State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) officials will soon place 32 Dumpsters in various locations along the state’s shorelines to address debris floating up from last year’s tsunami disaster in Japan.

Three of those will be placed in Curry County at Cape Blanco, Humbug Mountain and Harris Beach state parks.

OPRD is working with municipalities and waste companies along the state’s 363-mile shoreline – and encourages the beachcombing public to help by collecting debris from beaches.


Additionally, people can drop off tsunami debris at the Port Orford, Nesika Beach, Wridge Creek and Curry transfer stations.

The drop-off sites will accept debris in official beach cleanup bags available at state park campgrounds.

The public is asked not to deposit “regular” beach trash in the Dumpsters.

“This is not for general beach cleanup,” said OPRD spokesman Chris Havel. “You can kind of tell if people are throwing their lunch away, or partying the night before and beer cans all over, rather than something that’s washed up on the shore. We’re not asking people to decipher that, but if it’s not washed up from the tsunami, they shouldn’t put it in the Dumpsters.”

People collecting such debris must hand off the material to a transfer center or state park staff.

Schedules vary for drop-off locations. More information about each location can be obtained at http://www.

Officials don’t know exactly what to expect, nor when or how much debris will wash up. Seasonal tidal currents will likely deposit more debris at the northern end of the state this summer and fall. California and southern Oregon might see a greater percentage once winter arrives.

“We’re ahead of the curve for the south coast,” Havel said. “We’ll keep an eye on this, month by month, for the next year. Nobody can predict what’s going to happen.” 

What’s happened so far isn’t much, he said.

Sure, a dock washed up on Agate Beach. Invasive species have been collected. A motorcycle washed up in a container in British Columbia.

“There have been reports that it’s this ... wave, this solid line,” he said. “It’s not that. It’s these little pockets.”

Most of it is Styrofoam and plastic that accumulates at a slow, steady rate ­– and whose origin is difficult to determine.

“I went to Agate Beach, and sure, there’s this huge dock,” Havel said. “But I found one little piece of Styrofoam about as big as my thumbnail. It could have come from anywhere.”

Candie Wilk of Curry Transfer and Recycling encourages people to remove small debris – cans and bottles, buoys, Styrofoam – and recycle as much as possible.

She also advises not to break up styrofoam if possible and tie bags up to prevent material from blowing out.

The Dumpsters will be available as long as needed, Havel said, and volunteers will work in areas that receive more debris.

“We have to let the ocean tell us when to stand down – is it on the uptick, the downtick?” Havel said. “We’ll keep track of how much material accumulates and at what rate, just work it as it happens. We’ll manage through this.”

•Most debris will float up as rigid foam and plastic. 

•Debris too large to fit into a bag should be dragged above the high tide line if possible, with the date and location reported.

•Beach visitors who find tires, appliances or other large objects should not attempt to bring these items to the drop-off sites on their own; report them instead.

•Debris with living organisms should be reported with a photo, location and date, then moved above high tide or removed from the beach, bagged and disposed of properly.

Organisms should never be moved to another body of water – even to home aquariums – so as to reduce the threat of invasive species.

If people find mementos – things with identifying factors such as a name or items with monetary or sentimental value – they can also call 211. Such items will be returned to Japan.