As a busy tourist season comes to a close, local beaches will recover with a well-needed facelift from the community. The 23rd annual California Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 15 is recruiting volunteers to pick up marine debris (trash) for the protection and beauty of the coast.
In San Luis Obispo County the event is organized by ECOSLO, an environmental non-profit organization that promotes sustainability. “We have three basic aims,” said Caitlin Madden, volunteer coordinator for ECOSLO and psychology senior. “To clean up the beach, to educate people and to prevent future problems.”
Last year in San Luis Obispo County more than 1,400 people showed up to help. They were sent out in groups of four with plastic bags in pursuit of anything that did not belong on the beach, and came back with more than 6,000 pounds of trash.
“This year we are hoping to get 1,600 volunteers or more, especially with lots of students already back in town.”
Marine debris is anything that is not naturally found on a beach, and is most likely harmful to the environment. Every piece of collected trash is documented in an effort to collect hard data on what is polluting the local beaches.
Recently, California has seen its local governments instating new policies to prevent hazardous materials from ever ending up on beaches. For example, smoking bans have drastically reduced the number of cigarette butts the CCC collects each year, and polystyrene has been banned in both Malibu and Berkeley.
“Marine life can get entangled in the trash that ends up in the ocean,” Madden said. “Since plastic doesn’t break down completely, it ends up as little pellets that look like food and end up killing marine animals.”
Last year, an estimated 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles died as a result of marine debris.
Azusa Pacific University senior Roseanne Baker is visiting friends in San Luis Obispo the weekend of the cleanup. “The beaches up there (in San Luis Obispo) are so freaking gorgeous. You guys are all so lucky to go to school in San Luis Obispo, I hope you know,” said Baker, who plans on participating in the beach cleanup day with friends.
The organizers of the event will also be raffling off an “Electric eGo-Scooter” on the day of the cleanup. Tickets are $10 each and will be sold until either Sept. 15 or until 2000 have been bought. Tickets can be purchased at the ECOSLO office on the corner of Nipomo and Marsh streets.
Week of Welcome will host their day of service on the day before Coastal Cleanup Day this year, much to the chagrin of ECOSLO members who were hoping the days would conveniently coincide.
Students, however, are encouraged to come of their own devices to help out during the day. There are more than 25 separate beach sites this year in San Luis Obispo County, all of which can be found on the organization’s Web site, www.ecoslo.org. There is no sign-up necessary, just a timely appearance and comfortable clothing on the day of the cleanup.