No one likes to sink their toes in to the warm sand of their favorite beach and come into contact with a piece of litter left by careless visitors. A trip to the ocean should be about enjoying nature, not dodging cigarette butts, plastic bags, and abandoned fishing equipment. No matter how well we dispose of our trash, large amounts of garbage still finds its way from the mainland into the seas, forming massive aggregations, or “patches”, concentrated by swirling currents. All of this man-made detritus harms marine ecosystems, chokes wildlife, and eventually washes back up onto shores the world over.
As a group, we humans have made quite a mess. Luckily, there are many among us who every year participate in activities such as the California Coastal Cleanup Day, an event that takes place every September in an effort to remove trash from our shores. Last year, over 82,000 volunteers collected more than 1.2 million pounds of trash and recyclables in a single day throughout the state’s coastal and inland waterways.
The idea for a nationwide beach restoration day began in 1986 by a former Ocean Conservancy employee, Linda Maraniss, who was compelled to organize other concerned citizens in her home state of Texas. Within only two hours, 2,800 volunteers picked up 124 tons of trash over 122 miles of coastline, an achievement that caught the attention of communities across the country. The movement has since spread to 152 countries and locations across the globe, engaging nearly 9 million people who clear millions of tons of trash and collect data to document the amount, composition and frequency of ocean debris.
Organized by the Ocean Conservancy, the California Coastal Cleanup day will take place statewide on Saturday, September 17 from 9am-noon. To find a cleanup coordinator in your area, follow the California Coastal Commission’s link or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Make sure to bring hats, water and sunscreen. Collecting bags, data sheets, pencils, and gloves will be available on site. However, if you would like to go the extra mile and reduce waste even further, bring a pair of your own work gloves or reusable collecting container such as a plastic bucket or cloth shopping bag.
Looking to make a difference on a more consistent basis? Visit the Adopt-A-Beach site to see how your community can sponsor litter removal 365 days a year or donate to the Ocean Conservancy’s ongoing efforts to keep our seas healthy and trash-free.