Keep It Clean--Here's a chance to do something about trash on the beach.
Thursday, September 17, 1998
Coastal Clean-up Day, which takes place this Saturday, is the largest volunteer effort in the world. Over 92 countries and 55 U.S. territories participate in this event, now in its 14th year.
In 1997, over 342,026 volunteers collected and documented 6 million pounds of debris on beaches and inland waterways in a three-hour window of time. Much of what is left behind remains inland, on our beaches, or in the ocean where it may entangle wildlife or be eaten by marine animals.
Birds, fish and mammals often mistake plastic for food. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags as they would a jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. Birds feed plastic to their young. Even gray whales have been found with plastic bags and sheeting in their bodies. With garbage filling their stomachs, animals have a false sense of being full, and die of starvation.
Our coasts are drowning under a tide of ugly, unhealthy and dangerous debris that is also a health hazard for humans. We can be seriously injured by broken bottles, sharp metals and plastics on our beaches. And surprisingly, much of the garbage we encounter is carried from inland sources to our ocean and shores by wind, rivers, streams, and storm drains. In Monterey County alone, one clean-up yielded 8,388 pounds of trash and 6,097 pounds of recyclables deposited on 28 beach and watershed sites.
We all know people are creating this problem, but people are also the solution. In addition to volunteering our time for clean-ups, other contributions we can make include bringing a trash bag when traveling, and packing our trash when a receptacle is not available. Purchase products with less or no packaging. Choose products made by environmentally conscious companies who create biodegradable alternatives. Support school and at-home programs that promote recycling. And most importantly, we should educate our children about the impact of trash on the environment, and our lives.
We can also vote, and hold our elected representatives accountable for budgeting for waste management expenses, with special focus on tourist areas and special events. Requesting public receptacles be made readily available in high traffic areas, and maintained so they don''t overflow is also very important. Until we are also supporting these actions, all the clean-ups in the world will not keep up with the pace of the waste we generate.
Collectively we do make a difference! Coastal Clean-up Day brings together individuals who take responsibility for cleaning up our beaches, watersheds, and ocean. Not only is it fun, but data collection on Coastal Clean-up Day helps us identify our sources of pollution. The data results empower us to work toward implementing positive change. The data is also used by the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, state agencies, and local communities to develop permanent solutions to the marine debris problem.
The International Coastal Clean-up is not just about trash. It''s about our compelling need for clean oceans, watersheds and beaches; it''s about people, cooperation, partnerships, and solutions. It''s also not just about saving the earth, it''s about saving ourselves. We need healthy open spaces, clean water and air to survive. It''s becoming quite clear as we witness the destruction our basic life support systems that we cannot continue to live, and thrive, in a world that''s, quite simply, a dump.
Lynne Kemmer is promotional coordinator for the Monterey Bay Coastal Clean-up and the Monterey County coordinator. The Monterey Bay Coastal Clean-up is Sept. 19, 9am to noon on 30 beaches in Monterey County. To help, call 647-4259.