Alaska Coast Like a 'Landfill' 2 Years After Tsunami

Hawaii, British Columbia not sitting much prettier

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 4, 2013 12:48 PM CST | Updated Feb 9, 2013 7:45 AM CST

(Newser) – We're about a month away from the two-year anniversary of the earthquake that spawned Japan's devastating tsunami. Saying its effects linger far from Japanese shores is an understatement, per some recent reports:

  • In Alaska: "You're basically standing in landfill out here," says the head of a nonprofit that focuses on ridding the coast of marine debris. NPR reports on a scene replete with refrigerators, ketchup bottles, and the more concerning Styrofoam bits, which birds, rodents, and bears have been eating. The exec says the garbage, which was observed in every beach photographed in a 2,500-mile aerial survey completed last year, isn't getting the attention it needs. Indeed, Alaska Public Radio reports that there wasn't any funding for debris cleanup included in the governor's budget, and such funding was removed from the Sandy aid bill that passed last week.

  • In Hawaii: A refrigerator has also made its way to these shores, reports LiveScience. "These items have never before been seen on these beaches," says a marine debris specialist, who explains that they're washing ashore in what the site terms "surprisingly homogenous waves"—first oyster buoys, then refrigerator parts—due to the wind's effect.
  • In British Columbia: Its coasts have a Styrofoam problem, too, says a helicopter pilot who has been observing the shore for three decades. "Of course there's always debris on the beaches," he said. "But I dropped down ... and, holy crap, all of a sudden you see all this stuff." An expert on the subject expects the debris to wash ashore "through next summer. I expect the worst isn't over yet." The Globe and Mail reports that the West Coast anticipates it will see as much as 1.65 million tons of debris.

In this July 2012 file photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), buoys, foam and other debris are strewn about a beach on Kayak Island, Alaska.   (AP Photo/NOAA, Jacek Maselko,File)
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