Now that I’m living in Matsue, I often find myself not having much to do. Which means I’m usually sitting at my computer or sitting on my bicycle. One of my first destinations was the sea, which is about 10 km north from where I live.
The spot marked “須々海海岸” on Google Maps is overwhelmingly beautiful and saddening at the same time. While the pictures shared on Google Maps may show you that this is indeed a very beautiful spot, most of these pictures do not show that there is a lot of plastic trash on the beach.
So not having much to do, being somewhat young (28 back then) and being reasonably environmentally minded, I one day decided to see if I could maybe help clean this place up. Unfortunately, my Google queries for beach cleanup activities in Matsue didn’t yield any results, so I just decided to buy a pair of (gardening) gloves and a pack of large trash bags and get some cleaning done.
It turned out to be a great way to pass the time (in late spring, when it isn’t crazy hot and mostly not raining), so I kept coming back, and decided to continue until the tsuyu (rainy season) would kick in.
Just gathering the trash is of course not quite enough. You need to get it to the waste processing facilities. So I just went to the town hall and asked the person at the entrance what to do. I was told to go to the “volunteer” department at the 松江市環境センター (Matsue Environmental Office), where I had to fill out a form (pictured) with the following information: personal information, pick-up address (no house means no address, so this is a bit hard, but the guy at the counter really knew his way around town, and showing him the place on Google StreetView helped a bit too), the number of trash bags, cleanup date, next date in case rains gets in the way. After filling out the form, I got the number of Matsue-branded trash bags that I’d put on the form, at which point I had to explain that I’d actually already started cleaning, unfortunately using regular unlabeled trash bags. That was fine, but he told me to use the right bags next time. The form allows you to tick 自己搬入 (bringing in the trash yourself), but you’d probably have to explain yourself if you want to do that. I opted to have a truck pick up the trash I’d pile up at the side of the road, which usually takes place within one week after your cleanup date.
Not knowing much about the recycling facilities here, I generally sorted the trash by type: plastic bottles (of which there are many, many), plastic bottle labels, plastic bottle caps, styrofoam, hard plastic (probably mostly originating from buoys), soft plastic (think polyester), random other plastic. I had no intention of taking care of tree branches/logs, and was in fact told not to pick those up, as they wouldn’t fit into the plastic bags anyway.
- Japanese beaches may have a lot of ugly フナムシ (sea roaches). They will definitely crawl all over your bags, so make sure to close them properly. :p
- This place doesn’t have a lot of people come by, but the people I did meet were quite eager to talk. Mostly older guys who have come out to do some fishing.
- Carrying the trash bags from the beach up to the road (which is probably a 20 m altitude difference) was pretty tough, but very, um, good exercise. Combined with the 10 km (very much non-flat) ride on the bicycle… it was pretty intense. :p
- I’ll probably re-commence my cleaning activities when it gets a bit cooler, perhaps in September. Hoping the place won’t be infested by spiders.
- One day, I found that someone had helped during my absence \o/