KQED carried a story about free diver and 16 y.o. Alex Weber who discovered not only a new source of plastic pollution, but another testament to the casual, careless sloppiness of people.
And Ms Weber has converted it into a crusade against marine pollution, and a technical article in a scientific publication. Writing with Professor Matt Savoca of Stanford University, Weber and her dad, Michael Weber, also a co-author of that paper, found over 50,000 balls just offshore of a California golf course, with new ones arriving every day. See her golf ball project page.
A number of the balls are in usable condition:
Quoting from the Conclusion of their article:
In central California, the Pebble Beach Golf Links host 62,000 rounds of golf per year and has been in operation since 1919 (Dunbar, 2018). The average golfer loses 1–3 balls per round (Hansson and Persson, 2012), which implies that between 62,000 and 186,000 golf balls are lost to the environment each year at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. This translates to 3.14–9.42 tons of debris annually. While a portion of these balls is lost to non-oceanic regions adjacent to the course, the coast and intertidal environments still have a high likelihood of accumulating mishit balls. Using a conservative estimate of 10,000–50,000 balls lost to sea annually gives a range of 1–5 million golf balls lost to the coastal environment during the century that this course has been in operation. These projected numbers indicate that this issue has been overlooked for decades.
I salute Ms Weber, her dad, and Professor Savoca. And look forward to reading their paper.
Update, 27th January 2019
Accolades to authors Weber, Weber, and Savoca, and collection colleagues Johnston, Sammet, and Matthews for a most impressive piece of work!
The conditions on dives are cold and sometimes treacherous. Representative collections take planning and working around environmental and safety constraints. Revisits showed a glimpse of golfballs pollutant dynamics.
And it didn’t stop there: The huge population of golfballs needed to be characterized by age and wear.
The sampling areas and processes needed documentation.
This is a substantial body of field research, backed up by background scholarship.