P.E.I. beach walkers pick up mysterious plastic bits near Greenwich

A Souris woman is turning to social media to try to figure out why tiny bits of plastic are washing up on a beach between Cable Head and Greenwich.

Pauley calls the find 'disturbing' as birds were eating the bits of plastic

Sherry Pauley and Andy Ryan hold some of the small white pellets they have been finding on the beach between Greenwich and Cable Head. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Sherry Pauley and Andy Ryan regularly walk the beach between Cable Head and Greenwich.

They are always picking up garbage as they walk, but last week, they found something different than the usual collection of polystyrene buoys, plastic bags and other debris.

One small pellet sits on the beach between Greenwich and Cable Head. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"I noticed at the high water mark, there were several tiny white round balls," Pauley said, who was taking a walk with Ryan Friday evening. 

"I looked at them and realized they were a kind of Styrofoam material."

As they walked along the beach, Pauley found more and more of the tiny balls, the size of a pea and smaller.

"They look like they have similar to a golf ball with maybe eight or 10 sides on them, like dimples almost," Pauley said.

"But when you squeeze them they're squishy like Styrofoam. I don't know what they're made from, but that's the first thing that came to mind."

'No idea what they are'

It turned out that Ryan had a 500 millilitre water bottle full of the small white balls that he picked up two days before, in one small area of the beach.

"We have no idea what they are or where they came from," Pauley said.

"It is discouraging that two days later, you could quite clearly see them spread along the beach."

They were also disturbed because when he was collecting the plastic bits on Wednesday, Ryan saw birds eating them.

Pauley holds the white balls next to a piece of polystyrene to show the differences. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"Oh it was sad, after all the pictures we see in media and videos on social media of birds dying and their decomposition on beaches, full of plastic," Pauley said.

"That's the first thing I thought of because if they're eating the plastic it's not some random island, it's our island and they're out here eating plastic."

Andy Ryan found enough of the plastic balls to fill a 500 millilitre bottle. (Sherry Pauley)

'Pick them up'

Pauley took to social media to share the photos, hoping to find out what they are and received lots of reactions.

"Anger, sadness, people were shocked to see that that's here," Pauley said.

"You hear about it happening other places but it's happening here now."

She's hoping someone will be able to identify the bits of plastic.

 "I don't know where it came from, how it got here," Pauley said.

"But we need to clean it up and hopefully, if there's a problem, somewhere somebody will fix it." 

Ryan found these plastic pieces in 2017 on the same beach. He's not sure what they are or where they came from. (Sherry Pauley )

Pauley also urged people to stop and pick up garbage on the beach, or better yet, don't drop anything on the beach.

"You name it we've picked it up, chip packages, granola bars, plastic spoons and forks," Pauley said. 

"Anything and everything washes up or gets buried actually, people leave their garbage behind too. Really, just pick up your trash people." 

So far, no one has been able to identify the bits of plastic.

Pauley and Ryan gather up garbage every time they walk on this stretch of beach. They're now disposing of what they've collected over the winter. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

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Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.