Alex Weber, a free-diver based in California, has spent the last 2 years collecting golf balls that she and her Father discovered, littering the seafloor in the waters near Pebble Beach Golf Course. She noticed that the seafloor was carpeted in golf balls at various stages of decomposition.

This led her to initiate a clean up operation of the golf balls and to also investigate the issue in more detail. She collected 2,000 golf balls on her first day and the running total currently stands at more than 50,000 – 2.5 tonnes of marine pollution! Whilst collecting data, Alex has also started a website, The Plastic Pick-Up.

Alex has also teamed up with Matthew Savoca, a Stanford University scientist who studies plastic ocean waste. Weber was curious about the “strong mysterious odour” that the golf balls gave off and wondered if it might be dimethyl sulfide, a plastic chemical. Savoca has since encouraged Weber to write a scientific paper about her discovery.

The study is hoped to help create better cleanup protocols for coastal regions with golf courses, as well as creating more stringent regulations for recovering the golf balls.

An abstract of the study follows;

Identifying terrestrial sources of debris is essential to suppress the flow of plastic to the ocean. Here, we report a novel source of debris to the marine environment. From May 2016 to June 2018, we collected golf balls from coastal environments associated with five courses in Carmel, California. Our 75 collections recovered 39,602 balls from intertidal and nearshore environments adjacent to, or downriver from, the golf courses. Combining our collections with concurrent efforts of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Pebble Beach Corporation, we report the retrieval of 50,681 balls, totaling approximately 2.5 tons of debris. We also examined decomposition patterns in the collected balls, which illustrate that degradation and loss of microplastic from golf balls to the marine environment may be of concern. Our findings will help to develop and direct mitigation procedures for this region and others with coastal golf courses.”

Bearing in mind the numbers associated with just this one golf course, imagine what could be happening on a worldwide scale at every golf course that lies near an ocean or even a river? How many hundreds of thousands of golf balls are out there?

Find out more here – The Plastic Pick-Up