by Ashley Tuggle
‘It’s just a cigarette butt. It’s just a little piece of plastic. I don’t need to pick it up.’ But one cigarette butt turns into 6,489,979 cigarette butts found on our state beaches. All the little things can add up over time, leaving the beach and ocean littered with refuse that harms aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Not to mention, it makes the beach unpleasant to visit.
Last weekend, California and other states held annual coastal cleanup events. Coastal Clean Up Day 2013 was one of the biggest cleanup events with an estimated 7,500 volunteers in San Diego County removing approximately 150,000 lbs. of rubbish from 102 cleanup sites on our coastline and inland – more sites than ever before. In 2012, 7,235 volunteers in San Diego County collected 126,379 lbs. of trash and recyclables and statewide 65,544 volunteers removed 769,607 lbs. of rubbish in just one day
Great Ecology staff headed to our local beach as one of the site captains for the 29th annual Coastal Cleanup Day. We had a great volunteer turnout with local Boy and Girl Scouts, families, friends, and anyone walking our way. In a city where the ocean and beaches can dictate our days, we all recognize the importance of coastal cleanup events. Despite being one of the cleaner beaches, our volunteers collected over 40 lbs. of trash and 5 lbs. of recyclables!
While beach cleanups are important, we often overlook the parking lots and streets. One of our ecologists noted the sharp increase in trash he found in the parking lots and streets bordering the shoreline. (You can’t expect ecologists to go outside and not make any scientific observations…) Most of the litter left out flows directly into the ocean during or after a storm as many coastal communities do not treat runoff from the coastal streets next due to the costs of rerouting the water.
It’s important to be conscientious of the things we leave behind, whether they’re in a natural or urban setting. Everyone can help in their own way, even outside of the annual Coastal Cleanup Day by helping to pick up any discarded rubbish they see on the beach or on the sidewalks. There’s no effort too small to ensure the places we live and enjoy are kept beautiful.
You can find the next cleanup event in California by visiting the California Coastal Commission and for our friends on distant shorelines, the Ocean Conservancy has details on coastal cleanup events happening throughout the United States and around the world. So mark your calendars and join us to keep our beaches and oceans clean!