CANNON BEACH — Worried about dangerous plastics and other debris landing on local beaches, the Cannon Beach Parks and Community Services Committee wants people to be trained in removing the debris.

The committee is sending a resolution to the Cannon Beach City Council asking that money be set aside to initiate a training program locally and to host a gathering that would focus on training people from other coastal towns.

The committee adopted the resolution following a discussion with Marc Ward, founder of the Seaside-based Sea Turtles Forever. The nonprofit organization is involved in marine turtle conservation.

Ward, who has studied the accumulation of beach debris in Costa Rica and in Oregon for the past four years, said he scoured local beaches with a 7-mm nylon screen, and, after examining the debris collected, determined there are about 157 grams of “microplastics” per square meter on the beach.

“It’s not something that’s going away,” Ward told the committee.

“If this is compounded 1,000 times by Japanese debris, it’s going to move to a new level,” Ward said.

Following another survey, Ward estimated there are 22,000 items per mile of beach in North Clatsop County. Much of it comes from giant gyres in the ocean – swirling masses of plastics and other debris that have been discarded from industries around the world, as well as ships.

“The scope of the problem is daunting. It’s not just something we send volunteers out to do on weekends,” Ward said.

The plastics, he added, contain cancer-causing chemicals that could be released in hot temperatures.

“This material should never be recycled,” he said.

Ward said he is working with a Japanese university and has just released a study of their findings.

The tiny “nurdles” of hard round plastics can be swept up by screens when the sand is wet but as the sand dries, they are more difficult to gather, he said.

Nobody knows how much it will cost to remove the debris, Ward said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently allocated $50,000 to five states, including Oregon, to clean up the debris washing up from the Japanese tsunami.

Responding to Ward’s comments, committee member Ed Johnson called it a “huge, huge problem” and recommended that the committee submit the resolution to the council.

“This is new knowledge, and it has to have a new solution,” Johnson said.

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