DANIA BEACH, Fla. – Emily Robinson has been coming to Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park in Dania Beach for the past 16 years. She brings her kids here to show them one of the few virgin beaches left in Broward County.
“I like it because it’s natural, beautiful, wild,” Robinson said. “And it’s not groomed.”
But despite the natural beauty, it’s not a pretty story.
“Last year I noticed the trash was piling up more than usual and I could no longer just enjoy the beauty without seeing what we’re doing to our environment,” Robinson said. “I couldn’t ignore it anymore.”
Emily became activated. She now comes to the park three times a week — not just to pick up trash, but to make art.
“Sometimes if I find interesting trash, I photograph it,” she said.
Arranging the trash she collects by colors and shapes, she creates images she hopes will inspire and disturb people.
“I find that people are really struck by seeing trash in a curated way,” Robinson said. “More so than if you just say, ‘Hey, I’m picking up garbage, look how awful this is.’”
[SEE MORE OF HER WORK: @plasticpresents on Instagram]
She’s hoping to wake people up to what our mindless consumption is doing to our planet.
New data shows 18 billion pounds of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year.
On this day in Dania Beach, the entire beach is littered with microplastics — tiny pieces of plastic that break off from bigger plastics when the sun and the elements degrade them. The ocean is teeming with them and so is this beach.
“The scale of it is probably beyond the scope of our comprehension, like counting the stars at this point,” Robinson said.
New research shows an estimated 51 trillion microplastics litter the world’s ocean. In the past 10 years, global plastic production has more than doubled, and it’s expected to triple by 2050.
[ALSO SEE: Broward beaches are suffering and plastic is top culprit]
“I know when I’m here, you can’t turn in any direction without finding trash at your feet. Any kind of trash,” Robinson said. “The other day I picked up 800 plastic bottle caps in one hour. ... I came out it was low tide and it was like colorful confetti everywhere.”
The sad truth is there is never a shortage of material for Robinson’s artwork.
“We’re in a lot of trouble right now ... and I’m not sure what is left for us in 10, 15 years,” she said.
Last summer, Emily and her daughter were lucky enough to witness baby sea turtles hatching on this very beach, making their way to the ocean.
[ALSO SEE: Broward launches environmental dashboard to monitor climate change]
Her fear is that her daughter may not ever get to experience that again, nor one day share it with her children.
“When you come out here every day, you see the scope of the problem. You start to understand how much work we have to do and urgent, urgently,” Robinson said. “It’s like a firehose of plastic every day and it doesn’t go away. It’s not going away. Every bit of plastic being made is here to stay. It’s outliving all of us.”
Sign up for Coastal Cleanup Days in Miami-Dade County
Send us your “Don’t Trash Our Treasure” story ideas and questions for Louis Aguirre
See a list of beach cleanup groups where you can volunteer to help