The morning of September 19 was Heal the Bay’s annual Coastal Beach Cleanup event, posting more than 50 volunteer sites along the coast ranging with options to pick up trash from underwater, on kayak or just on land from 9 a.m. in the morning to noon.
Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental organization that teams up with other nonprofits such as the Surfrider Foundation, strives to keep our coastal waters safe, healthy and clean.
They had a 10,000-volunteer turnout along the coast, which included young ones showing that age doesn’t matter when it comes to protecting the oceans.
As soon as the day started at Cherry Beach, there were already more than 50 volunteers waiting to start picking up trash. Families, including children, were showing their support and even surrounding the information desks to ask many questions. The volunteers had to sign-in and sign a waiver before they were able to start, but in the mean time they were handed bags, gloves, food and water, as well as safety tips from the coordinators.
After an hour had passed, more than 100 people picked up trash and contributed their hours to the ocean. Before volunteers left, they had to stop again at the sign-in desk to turn in the trash they found, which had to be weighed and recorded for information.
One of the coordinators of the Cherry Beach site, Peter Hanink, who has been a participant to the beach cleanup for three years, gave more insight to the problem and the solution.
“We weigh our trash for a couple of reasons: first is to give the city a sense of how much trash is out here, and two is for nonprofit to be able to have a sense of what kind of impact you’re having…”
Trash that ends up in Long Beach or most of the bay, is made up of what is being drawn out from inland. This is coming from the L.A. River and the San Gabriel River as well as the gutters. Consistently, the number one item found in 2014 were cigarette butts, finding close to two and a half million. For 2015, in regards to cigarette butts, Styrofoam was also a culprit invading the ocean.
Along Cherry Beach, there are multiple signs that warn visitors of the potential harm in the water. It’s polluted with harmful chemicals and filled with potentially dangerous sizes of waste.
Throughout the day there were multiple pieces of wood around 10 feet high and debris weighing more than 20 pounds.
Many volunteers were astonished with how much waste ends up in the ocean and are consciously thinking of what they can do to help.
“…We ourselves have collected about seven and a half tons in the past five years, and that’s just doing once a month for an hour; It can be terribly depressing. It’s cool that we can make that much of a difference but also depressing that the scope of the problem is the trash out there, and we’re only out here once a month,” says Hanink.
Rachel Rhien and Ariana Santamaria, both students at Cal State Long Beach, have had doubts and worries about the condition of the ocean. They see the difference coming from people who visit the beach knowing what biodegradable means. Santamaria voices her solution, “We need to take the next step and take away things like Styrofoam and replace it with recycled waste. We need to encourage people to throw away trash as they produce it and [throw it away] in the proper place… seeing that so many people get involved, why not put forth a couple of hours to do your part?”
There is so much more that can be done to help the environment and starting with our oceans is one of them. Looking at volunteer opportunities with Heal the Bay or The California Coastal Commission is just one of the many ways to start and make a difference.