Jul 31

What Does Your Favorite Beach Look Like After a Busy Holiday?

Earlier this month, on the Fourth of July, I was lucky enough to enjoy a day with friends, and about 10,000 other people on Mission Bay’s Crown Point Park in San Diego. In between crowds of people with their tents, tables and chairs, were large cardboard boxes meant for people to dump their trash. During the day, people seemed to be taking care of the park by filling up their individual trash bags as well as filling up the oversized trashcans placed around the park.

Some trash didn't make it in the overflowing bins

Sunday morning, the aftermath of a successful holiday celebration was pretty evident. I arrived at the same location as the day before. One of our dolphin trainers, Kimi, had organized a group of about 15 team members and friends who were prepared to clean up the trash left behind. This was the second annual post-holiday beach cleanup that Kimi has organized and plans to hold more on upcoming holidays.

Group Photo of our Beach Cleanup Crew!

The park is monitored by the City of San Diego, providing cleaning crews on a regular basis. But it takes far more man power to pick up each piece of plastic, foam and cigarette butt left behind from a holiday weekend. The men and women who were out working on their holiday weekend were very grateful to have our help.

Strewn across the grass, sand and parking lots was every piece of trash you could think of. It was impossible to take more than two steps without having to reach down for another piece of plastic. .It was heartbreaking.

Aftermath of Fourth of July celebration in Crown Point park.

Even though smoking and drinking are both illegal in the park and on the beach, we found countless beer cans, empty glass bottles and cigarettes. San Diego Coastkeeper, a local foundation that helps to organize beach cleanups and analyze collected data, believes that cigarette butts are our top concern. Cigarette butts continue to be the most common type of trash found on our beaches. In 2013, volunteers removed 58,236 cigarette butts from our beaches, and this year that number rose to 75,069. These are non-biodegradable and leech toxins into the water, poisoning marine life. They also move with ease through our stormwater systems, meaning a cigarette butt need not be dropped directly at the beach in order to find its way there.

The second-most prevalent items include plastic wrappers and plastic foam. Plastic foam is non-biodegradable, meaning it does not naturally break down in the Earth’s environment. More likely than not, these types of trash will end up in places like birds’ nests and waterways. Plastic trash bags, for example, are a great concern for sea turtles. Some sea turtles die when they ingest trash. Leatherbacks are especially susceptible to ingesting plastic, mistaking it for jellyfish.

Types of items found on beach cleanups in 2014 from San Diego Coastkeeper

Taking these unfortunate outcomes into consideration is one of the main reasons why I thoroughly enjoy picking up trash at a local beach. I encourage others to get out there and do the same! I urge everyone to be aware of their trash and make sure it ends up in a trash can. But if you’re willing to go the extra mile, take part in an upcoming beach cleanup.

Kimi and I and part of our collection of trash

Every little bit counts. Make a vow to pick up ONE piece of trash a day. If even a hundred people read this post, we could save THOUSANDS of pieces of trash from going into the ocean and potentially harming an animal. Love your Earth today so that we can enjoy it tomorrow.