Think Before You Toss

July 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Columns, Out Of The Box

“Out of the Box”

with Mary Anne Street

Mary Anne Street

Think Before You Toss

Recently I visited the UGA Marine Science Center on Skidaway Island. It’s a great little gem, worth a visit especially if children are with you. They have a wonderful set of aquariums, featuring over 200 animals that represent 50 species native to Georgia’s coastal waters, where you can see and study marine life up close and personal, and they have a touch tank where guests can pick up and touch marine animals.

Their displays include a nurse shark, a loggerhead sea turtle and seahorses. They are located on the Intercoastal Waterway, and you can bring a picnic lunch and sit at the picnic tables and lull away an afternoon watching the water. Birds land a take off there, so if you are a bird watcher, it’s great, for that as well. I sat under a pear tree, enjoying the breeze and reading a book while I waited for my group. They do special programs for groups using microscopes, marsh walks and films to illustrate marine life and to teach guests about environmental issues; I was the tour leader for one of those groups.

They have a myriad of posters that are FREE, some of which make wonderful works of art, if framed (Georgia’s Salt Marsh Official Habitat). Some are great for kids rooms (Marine Fishes of Georgia), and they have a great map of the Coast of Georgia. We framed the latter and have it hanging in our rental unit—it always gets interesting comments. We also have a framed copy hanging in the Concierge’s office at Tybee Vacation Rentals.

One particular poster caught my eye.  It was titled “Marine Debris from Land and Sea—In the Environment a Long, Long Time.” I was appalled at the information it provided. It featured a beach and shore, and the shore water had items one might commonly find in the ocean—that is, those things that people toss away–and how long it took for those things to break down.
Did you know that those plastic beverage holders take 400 years to “breakdown” to nothing? Four hundred years!!!!! And people toss these out all of the time. Disposable diapers? 450 years! Glass bottles and jars “undetermined!” That’s incredible.

We need to stop and think about what we are doing to our environment when we just toss something or let it blow around. Even a paper towel takes 2-4 weeks to decompose.

Here’s a list:

Foamed plastic cup – 50 years
Wool socks – 1-5 years
Photo-degradable beverage holder – 6 months
Plastic bottle – 450 years
Plastic beverage holder – 400 years
Foamed buoy – 50 years
Plastic grocery bag – 1-20 years
Plywood – 1-3 years
Monofilament fishing line – 600 years
Glass bottles and jars – undetermined
Paper Towel – 2-4 weeks
Newspaper – 6 weeks
Cotton rope – 1-5 months
Apple core – 2 months
Cardboard box – 2 months
Cotton gloves – 1-5 months
Waxed milk carton – 3 months
Disposable diaper – 450 years
Aluminum can – 200 years
Tin can – 50 years

SO THINK before you toss away!
Until next month,
Mary Anne

UGA Marine Education Center & Aquarium 9:00 am – 4:00 pm weekdays;
10:00 am – 5:00 pm Saturdays
Closed Sundays & holidays;
Adults & children 13 & up – $4
Children 3 – 12 $2; under 3 – Free; 912.598.2496

Poster info:

Mary Anne lives on Tybee with husband The Tybee Handyman. Contact her at:

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