They set out with a common goal: to spruce up the coast, parks and waterways, removing as much trash as possible.
Thousands of volunteers throughout the state spent their morning Saturday, Sept. 21, getting their hands dirty for California Coastal Cleanup Day, marking the 35th year for the event. It is also part of a global effort that coincides with International Cleanup Day.
The cleanups happened in 55 counties in California at more than 1,000 locations, with large gatherings in Los Angles County from Malibu, down to Manhattan Beach Pier, throughout the South Bay and further inland at parks and waterways.
Long Beach hosted a handful of volunteer efforts, including at the Belmont Pier and near the San Gabriel River. In Orange County, cleanups took place at beaches dotting the 42-miles of coastline and further inland, an attempt to catch trash before it heads down stream to the beach.
According to the California Coastal Commission, which heads the effort, each year draws more than 70,000 volunteers who remove an estimated 800,000 pounds of trash and recyclables at cleanup sites.
“The Coastal Commission is incredibly proud that multiple generations of Californians have shown such dedication to the protection of our coast,” Executive Director Jack Ainsworth said in a news release. “The Coastal Cleanup Day story map is a great resource that helps illustrate how much we’ve been able to accomplish together.”
Removing pollution from the natural environment helps protect biodiversity such as the local wildlife species that call anywhere from the summits to sea home, said Heal the Bay communications director Talia Walsh.
“No matter where you live in Los Angeles, you’re located in a watershed,” Walsh said. “The things you do every day at home and work and school have an effect on local waterways and the ocean.”
The day is more than just cleaning the coast and beyond. It’s also a way to track and tally what ends up tossed on the ground, she said.
“Cleanups are important to keep going because they raise awareness for our pollution issues,” she said. “The data – every cigarette butt, snack wrapper, piece of plastic – goes into an online database… it helps inform public policy and business best practices. Because we have all this great data around trash cleanups, we can potentially enact laws that help curb that pollution.”
Heal the Bay, celebrating its 30th year helping with the effort, hosted about 70 cleanups on Saturday, from the beach and beyond in areas such as the Los Angeles River, Compton Creek and South Los Angeles.
While final figures on how much total trash is collected are tallied after the events, she’s expecting this year to be a record-breaking effort because of last winter’s rain, as well as areas that had wildfires.
Last year, Heal the Bay organized 13,464 volunteers and removed 59,600 pounds of trash and debris from L.A. County in the three-hour time span.
Some efforts came with an added message, like in Manhattan Beach, where volunteers also celebrating the United Nations’ International Peace Day gathered for the Stand in the Sand 4 Peace and Climate Action. They formed the words Peace in the sand north of the pier.
Orange County Coastkeeper drew big gatherings at various locations – last year an estimated 7,000 volunteers picked up 53,000 pounds of trash and recyclable materials. Save Our Beach in Seal Beach incorporated Coastal Cleanup Day into its regular beach cleanups held every third Saturday of the month, adding an extra location at the Seal Beach Pier.