Mysterious yellow plastic strands on Cape Cod beaches lead to explosive revelation_freckle removal utah

Eric Williams, Cape Cod Times·4 min readIn this article:
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  • Laura LudwigLaura LudwigGerman beach volleyball player

When a veteran beach clean-up expert noticed a bloom of yellow plastic tubing along Outer Cape strands, she began to ask questions.

"I had never seen it before," said Laura Ludwig, manager of the Center for Coastal Studies Marine Debris and Plastics Program. "Where was it coming from?"

Thus began a journey to unravel the stringy mystery. Ludwig first encountered the tubing in September 2021 at Long Point in Provincetown during a beach clean-up. During the days that followed, more of the plastic was picked off beaches in Outer Cape towns.

"It was mind-blowing how much of the stuff there was," she said in a recent phone interview.

An example of the explosive shock tubing, made of plastic, that has been washing up on beaches on Cape Cod and beyond.
An example of the explosive shock tubing, made of plastic, that has been washing up on beaches on Cape Cod and beyond.

The yellow tubing has a thin rope-like appearance, and continues to wash up on Cape Cod beaches in varying lengths, from very short (1 millimeter) to 90 feet. Ludwig said it has been found on beaches in Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Orleans, Brewster and Yarmouth. It has also been found on beaches in Hull, Scituate and beyond.

"I found a piece in Newport, Rhode Island last week," said Ludwig.

Where is the plastic washing up on Cape shores coming from?

So far, Ludwig's beach cleanups and other volunteer efforts have plucked more than 2,000 feet of the tubing from Cape beaches.

Picking up beach debris is no easy task, but determining where it came from can also be a tall order. Because of its sudden appearance, Ludwig figured the tubing must have been related to a new situation, perhaps a recent project or unusual occurrence. She reached out to beach debris colleagues, asking for assistance on the mystery.

One of those colleagues posted a picture of the tubing on Facebook.

According to Ludwig, someone from the United Kingdom said it looked similar to material used in blasting rocks in quarries.

This explosive theory led Ludwig to reach out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to see if similar tubing had been used in projects in the region.

The answer, according to Ludwig was "yes."


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