How did piles of Haiti’s trash end up on NC beaches? Hurricane Florence is a suspect

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Hurricane Florence is being blamed for piles of trash from Haiti and the Dominican Republic found strewn across miles of North Carolina beaches.

That’s an 1,100 mile trip across the Atlantic.

Residents of North Topsail Beach began posting photos of the mysterious trash on Facebook over the weekend, noting brightly colored products labeled in Spanish and French were now lodged in the sand.

North Topsail Beach firefighter Bradley Thomas Dixon told McClatchy he expected the record-setting storm to spread trash across Topsail Island’s beaches, but was “shocked to find the majority came from another country.“

“I started realizing that I did not recognize 60 percent of the bottles that I was picking up!” said Dixon, who was among those who volunteered to clean beaches over the weekend.

“That was when I found a plastic bottle cap that said ‘Haiti.’ I guess Hurricane Florence scooped up a big pile of trash out in the Atlantic and scattered it on North Carolina beaches…Topsail is littered with it.”

North Topsail homeowners Margot Clark and Jennifer Cusimano Miller say they also found some of the Haitian trash, which was made up of plastic bottles for things such as shampoo, vinegar, deodorant and ketchup.

“I have to imagine Florence brought them in,” Miller told McClatchy. “I’ve never seen plastic trash to this magnitude on our beach…I definitely think this is storm related.”

How trash may have been pulled from Hispaniola (home of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to Topsail Island is something of a mystery since NOAA tracking shows the storm kept north of the island when it passed Sept. 11.

However, Hurricane Florence had a big reach, expanding to 300 miles wide as it neared the U.S coast, says NOAA. As the storm grew, it passed over what NOAA calls “garbage patches”: Large concentrations of litter in the ocean made up mainly of bits of plastic, both large and small. NOAA maps show several such spots were along the path of Hurricane Florence.

Dixon says he tried to pick up as much of it as possible along four miles of beach Sunday, and still had to leave some behind. His goal, he says, was to keep it from going back into the ocean.

“I can’t fathom the volume of trash that must be floating in the ocean from that one small island. It is a serious problem when a shoreline over 1,100 miles away is tainted,” he said.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs