Californians turned out by the tens of thousands on Sept. 20 to lend their hands in support of clean beaches and inland waterways at the 30th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day. They scoured beaches and inland waterways, picking up trash and debris at over 850 sites in 55 of California’s 58 counties, gathering hundreds of tons of trash during Saturday morning’s three-hour event. These volunteers took part in the California Coastal Commission’s Coastal Cleanup Day, the state’s largest volunteer event. Beach, inland waterway, and community cleanups took place up and down the California coast, from Mexico to the Oregon border, around San Francisco Bay, and at sites as far inland as Lake Tahoe. California’s event is part of the International Coastal Cleanup organized by Ocean Conservancy.
With 75 percent of the cleanup sites reporting, the statewide count stands at 54,124 volunteers.
Those volunteers picked up 576,571 pounds of trash and an additional 109,494 pounds of recyclable materials, for a total of 686,065 pounds or 343 tons.
“For 30 years now, Californians have showed the passion and commitment they have for our coast and inland waterways,” said Eben Schwartz, Marine Debris Program Manager for the California Coastal Commission. “The 2014 Coastal Cleanup Day showed once again that dedicated volunteers can make an enormous positive difference for our precious environment.”
Data from past cleanups shows that most (between 60 to 80 percent) of the debris on beaches and shorelines is made up of single-use disposable plastic items that originate on land, traveling through storm drains, creeks, or rivers to the beaches and ocean. That, and the popularity of the event, helps explain why Coastal Cleanup Day has grown so dramatically over the years. The California Coastal Commission and organizations around the state are committed to stopping trash where it starts, before it has a chance to harm the state’s marine wildlife and ecosystem.
As always, every-day debris and plastic items weren’t the only things found on Coastal Cleanup Day. Volunteers also picked up a number of “unusual” items during this year’s cleanup. The Winners of the 2014 Most Unusual Item contest were Coastal California: A volunteer in Ventura County found a polar bear costume; Inland California: A volunteer in San Joaquin County found a preserved blowfish ornament.
The Coastal Commission also continued an effort, initiated during the 2010 Coastal Cleanup, to reduce the environmental footprint of the Cleanup. The Commission asked volunteers to bring their own reusable bag or bucket and reusable gloves to the event, rather than using the single-use disposable plastic items that were available at every site. Thanks to this effort, the Commission was able to order almost 50,000 fewer trash bags for this year’s event than in prior years, and early reports indicate that the popularity of the effort is growing. The latest reports show that 11,489 volunteers brought at least one reusable item from home for use during this year’s Cleanup.