The clean-up was at a beach in Playa del Rey, an area just North of LAX. The area itself is lovely and the water was a gorgeous blue. If you looked at the beach from far away, you probably wouldn't have noticed much trash at all, but, up close, it was littered with tiny pieces of junk.
At Heal the Bay beach clean-ups, you're issued a rubber glove, a trash bag and a check list to keep track of what kind of trash you're picking up. The majority of the trash on this beach was made up of small pieces of styrofoam, tiny pieces of styrofoam and teeny tiny pieces of styrofoam.
Honestly, the amount of styrofoam bits on California beaches is shocking, and a little depressing. Despite our best efforts, the four of us barely made a dent in several heavily-littered areas. We did our best, though, and picked up us much styrofoam as possible, as well as around 80 cigarette butts and other small pieces of trash and plastic.
Speaking of cigarette butts, I am thinking there needs to be some kind of revolution or grass-roots movement against this particular form of litter. According to the Ocean Conservancy, cigarette butts account for 1 in every 5 pieces of litter picked up on California beaches during costal clean-ups. They get there both through people smoking on beaches and, mostly, through people dropping their cigarette butts in the street. Those butts are then washed down storm drains and sent out into the ocean.
I think that smokers need to start taking responsibility for the proper disposal of the cigarette butts, and non-smokers need to say something when they see people drop their butts on the ground. It seems absurd to me that people who would never drop an empty aluminum can or candy wrapper on the ground freely and unthinkingly toss their cigarette butts anywhere they happen to be standing. I plan to start my own little campaign against this behavior, and I hope you'll join me.
Here's a funny poster from Australia to get you inspired.
If you'd like to volunteer with Heal the Bay, you can learn more by clicking this link. They are having their annual state-wide Coastal Clean-Up Day on September 16, with clean-ups at over 55 different sites in LA County alone. Go to the website if you're interested in participating, or call 800-COAST-4U for sites in the rest of California.