Coastal Cleanup Day Coming to a Town Near You

Posted on 20 September 2013

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Leila MonroeBy Leila Monroe

Natural Resources Defense Council

Every year since 1985, tens of thousands of Californians have joined Coastal Cleanup Day, the world’s largest volunteer effort to clean up waterways and the ocean. This year’s cleanup will take place on September 21, and you can find an event near you by going to the California Coastal Commission.

The work of volunteers is a testament to the care and concern they have to maintaining our beached and oceans clean and healthy. Last year alone, over 65,000 volunteers removed almost 770,000 pounds of trash from California's beaches, lakes, and waterways.

Beyond California, the annual coastal cleanup is now a global phenomenon. Hosted by the Ocean Conservancy, in 2012 alone, nearly 600,000 volunteers worldwide removed more than 10 million pounds of waste.

If you’re wondering why it’s so important to keep trash, especially plastic waste, out of the ocean, take a peak at Chris Jordan’s devastating portrayal of the impacts to wildlife in the upcoming film Midway, or read Ocean Conservancy Conservation Biologist Nick Mallos’ blog where he shares:

“Each year, approximately 10,000 pounds of plastics are brought to Midway not by currents or wind, but in the stomachs of the birds themselves. Mothers and fathers forage at sea for weeks in search of fish eggs, squid and other prey in hopes of nourishing their newly hatched chicks that wait anxiously hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

All too often, adult albatross return to Midway not with nutrition from the sea but instead plastic bottle caps, cigarette lighters, fishing floats and colossal quantities of plastic fragments that float adrift in the North Pacific Ocean. Albatross chicks do not possess the ability to regurgitate; once consumed, these plastics often become fatal.”

Cleaning up Santa Monica, CCD 2010 | Photo credit: Heal the Bay

What is clear from the study of the scientific literature, is that plastic waste in the ocean is of the greatest concern to the health of the marine environment.

And beyond the environmental costs, plastic pollution also has economic impacts. A recent study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that California communities are spending nearly half a billion dollars annually in preventing trash from polluting the state’s beaches, rivers and ocean.

One solution is for everyone to do their part, including producers of the highly littered plastic products. Producers, cities and towns, and individuals must share responsibility for ensuring that producers are not making plastic products that kill marine life or end up polluting the ocean, city streets and creating possible health risk. As individuals we can also help by choosing reusable products and packaging wherever possible, by recycling whatever plastic we use, and by helping to cleanup the litter that escapes or is irresponsibly discarded.

Groups like NRDC will continue to work on a new framework that would require producers of single-use plastic packaging to help support those essential and costly activities necessary to keep their products out of the landfill and out of the environment.

But for now, you can do your part, while enjoying a day at the beach, by joining California's record breaking Coastal Cleanup Day.

This article was originally published at the Natural Resources Defense Council's staff blog, Switchboard.