Alex Weber is no ordinary 18-year-old. Since spring 2016, she’s collected around 50,000 golf balls from the oceans surrounding Carmel Bay in California. It’s part of her effort to clean up a mess that presumably stems from years of golfing at nearby courses.
Born into a family of scuba divers, Weber, who studies at Cabrillo Community College, calls herself an ocean kid. “It’s all just a huge natural high for me,” she tells Medium. To keep her beloved beaches pollution-free, she frequently carries out clean-ups to remove microplastics that wash up on the beaches from large ocean swells.
One day in May 2016, Weber and her father decided to go free diving off the coast of their local beach. “What we came across was the entire sea floor was covered in golf balls,” Weber recalls. “There were thousands of golf balls in every crack and crevice — I immediately felt sick to my stomach.”
The next time Weber and her father went diving, they collected around 2,000 golf balls. “Being a human,” she says, “I felt responsible for cleaning up the mess that we created.”
The pattern continued: every time the duo went diving, they gathered between 500 and 5,000 golf balls. Between May 2016 and June 2018, the Webers retrieved 50,000 golf balls in total, equaling around 2.5 tons of debris, roughly equivalent to the weight of a pickup truck. The father-daughter team have now co-authored a scientific paper, recently published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, describing the scope of the problem.
“The amount of golf balls we were able to pull out of the ocean on a regular basis and the rate at which the ocean could refill the sea floor with golf balls was so astonishing,” Weber adds. “That’s definitely what kept me going — the fact that the balls didn’t stop coming.”