Trindade Island is so remote that when Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Antarctic expedition put ashore in 1910, only a few were known to have visited before: Scott himself in 1901 in the Discovery; the astronomer Edmond Halley who allegedly populated the island with “Goats and Hoggs”; Sir James Ross on his way to Antarctica in 1839; and E. F. Knight with a party of Newcastle miners who were in search of buried treasure left by Captain Kidd (1). Rather than treasure, Scott’s expedition found the island infested with land crabs. Of these Henry Bowers wrote:

“One big fellow left his place in the circle and waddled up to my feet and examined my boots. First with one claw and then with the other he took a taste of my boot. He went away obviously disgusted: one could almost see him shake his head.”

But now, this uninhabited volcanic island is infested with something else – plastiglomerates. These are rocks which have become mixed with plastic as fishing nets wash ashore and melt from the heat – forcing geologists to rethink the three standard classifications of rock: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. You may already be familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where a gyre of plastic waste slowly rotates in an area covering 7.7 million square miles. Or you may have heard of the 5-tons of debris which washes up annually at Midway Atoll smack in the middle of the Pacific. Birds are dying on the atoll from ingesting plastic. Where does it all come from? It is estimated that “80 percent of plastic in the ocean” is from land-based sources.

Sacramento contributes to this whirling vortex of plastics via its creeks and rivers. Already this year, one volunteer group, River City Waterway Alliance, in coordination with Sacramento County Regional Parks, has pulled 269,000 pounds of trash from the American River, and Arcade and Steelhead Creeks. Most recently 15,000 pounds of trash were pulled from behind Governor Newsom’s home along the American River with help from American River Lost & Found and Elk Grove Anti-Trash Community Cleanups.

The problem starts here with our complacent attitude towards trash. But the solution also starts here.

That pile of trash behind the Governor’s House

Trash near Steelhead Creek

1) Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World.