Glass Beach: Radical Example of Natural Recycling

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Mother Nature tends to try to right the things that we, as humans, mess up – but it may take a while for her to catch up. This is startlingly apparent in Fort Bragg, California, where the forces of nature have taken what used to be a barren and disgusting trash heap and turned it into something truly beautiful. Glass Beach, just north of Mendocino, gained its unique name because of the tons of shimmering sea glass adorning its sand.

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From 1950 to 1967, the land that is now Glass Beach was owned by a lumber company, but was used as an unofficial dump by residents. It’s hard to believe that just 50 or 60 years ago we found it perfectly acceptable to dump household waste, appliances and even cars right into the ocean, but that’s exactly what happened here. Though various cleanup efforts took place over the years, the beach would never again see its natural state. The sand was now overtaken with countless pieces of sea glass: pieces of broken glass worn smooth and lovely from the constant friction of waves and sand.

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The site was eventually purchased by the state in 2003 for a cool $2.48 million. It is now a public-accessible tourist destination, but the state does not allow visitors to take any of the sea glass as a souvenir. You may still see the occasional antique piece of garbage wash up on the short, but for the most part Glass Beach is a glittering stretch of sand full of history and, hopefully, a lesson: beautiful things can grow where desolation and filth used to thrive.