As the tide turns on Coastal Cleanup Month, our big waves of gratitude and appreciation roll in for all who took part. We embarked on Coastal Cleanup Month with the mission of Healing Our Watersheds together. Even though it was another year of uncertainty due to the pandemic, our Coastal Cleanup Month participants still made an impact while keeping one another safe.
Thank you for volunteering in a cleanup, joining us at a virtual event, supporting our fundraising efforts, and sharing your exciting cleanup stories with photos and videos. Collectively, our contributions cleaned up our beaches, wetlands, waterways, neighborhoods, and mountain trails.
Combining the Best of Both Waves: In-Person & Virtual in 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that even when our world seems to be shut down, the trash never stops. Pollution continues to wreak havoc locally and globally in our watersheds and communities.
Last year, Heal the Bay expanded Coastal Cleanup Day to encompass the entire month. Our communities attended interactive virtual events and we encouraged self-guided cleanups throughout the month in order to do our part while protecting the health and safety of all.
Coastal Cleanup Month 2021 continued to highlight how cleanups can and should be done anywhere, anytime – not just along the coast. Our virtual events on Instagram Live and Zoom were led by scientists and experts who discussed environmental issues in Los Angeles County and focused on inclusive solutions.
This year — with careful planning and consideration — we were thrilled to bring back in-person cleanups on Coastal Cleanup Day in a limited capacity. In addition to self-guided cleanups throughout the month, we also wanted to safely come together outside to take action.
Emely Garcia, Coastal Cleanup Day Coordinator for Los Angeles County, praises the community effort to bring back safe, in-person cleanups for the big day, “The preparation and planning from our staff, site captains, and volunteers made this such a rewarding Coastal Cleanup Day. While this Coastal Cleanup looks much different than past years, it was wonderful being back in person, even at reduced capacity, protecting what we love.”
Coastal Cleanup Day would not have been possible without the leadership of our volunteer site captains across LA County:
Alex Preso, Anne Walker, Art Liem, Art Salter, Ashley Zarella, Barbara Gentile – Crary, Britany Goldsmith, Brittaney Olaes, Carl Carranza, Catherine Vargas, David Weeshoff, Don Nipper, Emily Parker, Fallon Rabin, Grace Young, Homin Houta, Jay Fodor, Joan Hernandez, Joel Glen, John La Rock, Karen Barnett, Lendi Slover, Leslie Cortez, Lois Brunet, Luke Ginger, Matthew Billinghurst, Maritza Toles, Nainoa Cravalho, Nick Shattuck, Patricia Jimenez, Patrick Tyrell, Roger Waiters, Say Craig, Supriyaa Singh, Tarry Kang, Terumi Toyoshima, and William Bowling.
A special THANK YOU to our site captains for leading the in-person effort on Coastal Cleanup Day!
Coastal Cleanup Month Results
This year, 4,708 volunteers across LA County collected over 30,000 pieces of trash during September for Coastal Cleanup Month.
Coastal Cleanup Day
On Saturday Sept 18, we had 2,735 volunteers join us at 35 beaches, river, and inland sites across Los Angeles County, California to participate in Coastal Cleanup Day 2021.
In a span of three hours, our volunteers removed 5,051 pounds of trash and 156 pounds of recyclables. They covered 50+ miles of area on land and underwater, tracking their trash and memories as they went.
An Invisalign at the beach? A golf bag underwater? A traffic cone in the creek? It would not be Coastal Cleanup Day without a list of weird trash finds.
Here are a few of our favorites from Coastal Cleanup Day 2021:
Barbie Doll head found in a tide pool (Surfrider Beach)
Baby jumper car (Long Beach)
Social Security Card (Santa Monica Beach – North)
Student LAUSD Bus Pass from 2012 (Toes Beach)
Fake $50 Bill and Pearl earring (Mother’s Beach)
Bike wheel and pineapple (Ballona Wetlands)
973 self-guided cleanups took place all month long and were an essential part of Coastal Cleanup Month. Heal the Bay volunteers took initiative to clean up every aspect of our watershed over the four-week span, especially at their outdoor happy places. With sweat on their brow, smiles on their faces, and buckets full of trash, we want to highlight the amazing work of our 1,973 cleanup volunteers.
We had participants across our watershed; mountains – 42, neighborhoods – 183, waterways – 29, and beaches – 1,717.
Our Overall Impact
LA County’s Top 10 Trash Items
The results are in! Take a look at the top 10 trash items removed by volunteers in Los Angeles County during September 2021.
Why Do We Track Trash Data?
Data collected by volunteers during Coastal Cleanup Month is necessary in tracking local and global pollution trends. Our cleanup trash totals provide a snapshot of the current waste stream circulating here in Los Angeles and around the globe. This provides important baseline knowledge to inform and influence public policy and business practices for a healthier ocean, cleaner waterways, and safer communities.
As our top 10 trash items list displays, pollution from single-use plastic is the most prominent litter source in Los Angeles County.
PPE: Year Two of the Pandemic and its Impact on Our Environment
2020 was the first time we tracked the improper disposal of single-use personal protective equipment for LA County. Last year, it ranked #10 in the Top 10 Finds for Coastal Cleanup Month. This year, it ranks #9. Our data displays the negative impact the pandemic and sanitary measures have had on our waste stream, adding to another global problem: single-use plastic.
Problematic Plastic: The Takeover of Microplastics
For both self-guided cleanups and in-person cleanup trash totals, the most frequent find was small plastic pieces. Our volunteers collected 6,547 plastic pieces. These problematic plastic pieces eventually break down into microplastics. Microplastics, which measure less than 5 mm, populate every aspect of our watershed — found in our water, the food we eat, and swirling around in our atmosphere. This is a worldwide crisis, not just for the environment but for humans as well.
As shown in our data above, single-use plastic from the food and drink industry are huge pollution sources, and eventual microplastic contributors as they breakdown in our environment. While cleanups aid in reducing the volume of plastic pieces that wind up in our watershed, we need to address the problem at the source. That’s why we’re fighting for effective plastic policies that limit the production of single-use plastic and make it easier for recyclable plastic to be disposed of properly.
Take Action: From Bills to Law, We Need Your Help
The California legislature introduced the Circular Economy Package in 2021 to fight plastic pollution. Here are three bills in the package that tackle plastic pollution, and could use your help to get signed into law:
Senate Bill 343: The Truth in Environmental Advertising Act
Have you ever turned over a plastic cup to see if it can be recycled, and noticed there is a number that’s encircled with the “chasing arrows” symbol. This leads you to believe it is recyclable, right?! Well, most of the time, it is not actually recyclable. SB 343 makes using the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle symbol illegal if the item cannot actually be recycled. It only permits the use of the ♻️ symbol to be used on items that can be recycled in California. What a novel idea, huh! SB 343 helps to clarify what items should go in the recycling bin, reducing confusion among consumers while improving diversion rates. This means less waste is sent to landfill and more is actually recycled.
Assembly Bill 1276: Disposable Foodware Accessories
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us relied much more heavily on restaurant takeout and food delivery to feed ourselves and our loved ones while supporting local restaurants. The downside? Receiving disposable foodware accessories like cutlery, condiment packets, and straws that we don’t need and frequently end up in the trash without ever being used. These items, often made of single-use plastic, are clogging waste facilities and polluting our environment. AB 1276 would require foodware accessories only be provided upon explicit request of the customer, so you wouldn’t get them unless you ask.
Assembly Bill 962: California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act
What’s the best way to fight plastic pollution? Tackling the problem at the source. This bill focuses on replacing harmful disposable plastic items with sustainable reusable and refillable products. AB 962 promotes returnable and refillable beverage bottles in California by allowing glass bottles to be washed and refilled by beverage companies instead of crushed and recycled into new bottles – a much less energy-intensive process that encourages reuse and refill.
Take action! Urge Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the Circular Economy Package Into Law and many others here: https://camustlead.org/
Reduce Your Plastic Pollution EVERY DAY
In addition to urging the California Governor to sign strong anti-pollution policies into law, you can make changes every day to reduce the amount of plastic waste that enters our watershed.
Expanding upon the eco-friendly concept of reduce, reuse, and recycle, we encourage you to go two steps further before recycling an item: refuse and repurpose. Incorporating the 5 R’s of sustainability into your daily decision-making as a consumer will limit the expulsion of single-use plastic waste and its effects on our environment.
Before throwing an item in the trash, we encourage you to walk through these five steps:
Disposing plastic waste properly is important, but we must acknowledge that the prevalence of plastic in our world is not a burden that falls solely on the consumer – producers, we’re looking at you too! By using your voice to influence public policies and business practices for a plastic-free future, you are holding companies and corporations accountable for the waste they create.
Coastal Cleanup Month shows us that when communities work together, we make a big splash. This shared work must continue, and we must protect what we love every day.
Heal the Bay celebra su 32nd aniversario albergando la mayor limpieza voluntaria en el condado de Los Angeles.
La organización medioambiental sin ánimo de lucro Heal the Bay hace una llamada a las personas voluntarias del condado de Los Angeles para que se unan al evento de limpieza más grande del mundo – El mes de la limpieza costera 2021 presentado por Portland Potato Vodka y Ocean Conservancy.
Se anima a los voluntarios y voluntarias a realizar limpiezas de playas y vecindarios por su cuenta durante todo el mes de septiembre, y como punto culminante, a unirse al evento especial del Día de Limpieza Costera (Coastal Cleanup Day) el sábado 18 de septiembre de 9 am a 12 pm en más de 25 sitios costeros, interiores y fluviales en area metropolitana de LA. Tenga en cuenta: para los grupos presenciales del Día de Limpieza Costera el 18 de Septiembre hay un aforo muy limitado debido a las precauciones de salud y seguridad de COVID-19, por lo que serán organizados por estricto orden de llegada. Usted puede saber de antemano cuándo se abre la inscripción para el voluntariado del Día de Limpieza Costera suscribiéndose al Boletín Azul de Heal the Bay.
El Mes de la Limpieza Costera invita a angelinos, angelinas y visitantes de toda la región a recoger basura y desperdicios dañinos y antiestéticos mientras exploran el medio ambiente, disfrutan del aire libre, y participan en un proyecto de ciencia comunitaria. El evento es parte de la Limpieza Costera Internacional que ha movilizado a millones de personas voluntarias por todo el mundo.
El año pasado, el equipo voluntario de Heal the Bay retiró 40,101 piezas de basura de los vecindarios, parques, senderos y playas, y por primera vez en la historia, los equipos de protección personal (máscaras y guantes) estuvieron entre los diez artículos de basura más encontrados en las zonas al aire libre favoritas de Los Angeles.
Las personas voluntarias pueden registrar la basura que encuentran usando la aplicación Clean Swell o manualmente a través de la tarjeta de datos de Heal the Bay. Los datos recopilados durante el Mes de la Limpieza Costera se utilizan para educar e informar a legisladores, administradores de saneamiento y desechos y comunidades sobre los tipos y fuentes de basura que hay en nuestro entorno. Las colillas, los utensilios, envoltorios y botellas de plástico y sus tapas siguen siendo los artículos más comunes que encuentran las personas voluntarias. Otros artículos comunes incluyen bolsas de plástico, popotes de plástico y agitadores, recipientes de plástico para llevar, tapas de plástico y recipientes de espuma para llevar.
Durante los últimos 20 años, los voluntarios y voluntarias de Heal the Bay han eliminado más de 4 millones de piezas de basura y escombros de las playas del condado de Los Angeles. Si bien la limpieza de playas es nuestra última defensa para erradicar la basura en la costa, todavía hay 8 millones de toneladas de plástico que se arrojan a nuestros océanos cada año. Eso equivale a un camión de basura lleno cada minuto. Heal the Bay exige una acción estatal para abordar esta crisis de contaminación y aboga por políticas y prácticas que reduzcan el plástico en el origen.
El Mes de la limpieza costera de Heal the Bay 2021 es posible gracias al apoyo de Portland Potato Vodka, Ocean Conservancy, la Comisión Costera de California, Water for LA, la ciudad de Santa Mónica y TIME TO ACT Entertainment.
Se recuerda la participación de manera segura seleccionando un lugar accesible, usando una máscara cuando estén en público, usando guantes al manipular la basura y participando solamente cuando gocen de buena salud para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de COVID-19. El aforo para el evento de Heal the Bay el 18 de septiembre es limitado debido a las precauciones de salud y seguridad, razón por la cual desde Heal the Bay se alienta a los voluntarios y voluntarias a participar en limpiezas autoguiadas durante todo el mes.
Heal the Bay es el coordinador oficial del Día de Limpieza Costera y el Mes de Limpieza Costera en el condado de Los Angeles en asociación con la Comisión Costera de California y Ocean Conservancy. La organización sin ánimo de lucro busca personas voluntarias de todas las edades y capacidades físicas para participar; no se necesita formación ni experiencia. Los organizadores animan a los voluntarios y voluntarias a “BYO” (traer sus propios baldes, bolsas reutilizables y guantes reutilizables para recoger la basura). Los suministros de limpieza están disponibles bajo pedido y por orden de llegada.
Acerca de Heal the Bay
Heal the Bay es la organización medioambiental sin ánimo de lucro líder en el condado de Los Ángeles y está dedicada a proteger las aguas costeras y las cuencas hidrográficas. La organización tiene una historia de 36 años en el uso de la ciencia, la educación, la defensa y la acción comunitaria para proteger el agua limpia. El grupo realiza dos limpiezas de playa por día de media. Heal the Bay también emite calificaciones de calidad del agua para cientos de playas de California cada semana a través del Beach Report Card con NowCast, proporciona calificaciones semanales de calidad del agua para docenas de áreas de agua dulce con el River Report Card, educa a miles de estudiantes locales cada año y opera el galardonado Heal the Bay Aquarium. Visite healthebay.org para obtener más información.
As the sun sets on Coastal Cleanup Month, we are looking back with gratitude and appreciation for everyone who participated in a cleanup, helped us spread the word, raised funds, and joined a virtual event over the course of the month. At a time when it’s easy to feel isolated from one another, it is inspiring to see how we came together across the County, from summit to sea, to protect what we love.
A New Take on 2020
Heal the Bay has been the LA County coordinator for Coastal Cleanup Day for more than 30 years, and 2020 proved to be a completely different cleanup effort than years past. In an effort to prioritize the health and safety of the community, the re-imagined concept was expanded to become an entire month of individualized cleanups close to home and virtual programming to educate about the impacts of trash and pollution and how we can work together towards solutions. Our Heal the Bay Aquarium education team engaged 437 LAUSD students with virtual programming about protecting our watersheds. This was also the first year that we asked for volunteer fundraisers to support our clean water mission. Fundraising teams and individuals raised close to $2,000, and we are grateful for their support.
Each week of Coastal Cleanup Month focused on a different region, starting at the top of our mountains, working through our neighborhoods & waterways, and culminating at our wetlands & beaches. The weekly programming featured a series of panels, webinars, and Instagram Lives with partner organizations that explored the various community and environmental issues facing Los Angeles County.
None of this would have been possible without our Coastal Cleanup Month sponsors, and we would like to thank Water for LA, Blue Shield, K-Swiss, Ford, and West Basin Municipal Water District for their support.
This year, we set a goal of collecting 31,000 pieces of trash throughout the month of September. Thanks to our dedicated Regional Ambassadors and 2,334 registered cleanup volunteers, we surpassed this goal with a total of 40,101 pieces of trash collected!
The top 10 items found across Los Angeles County in the month of September were:
The Effects of PPE and the Pandemic on Our Environment
Coastal Cleanup Month was the first initiative of this scale to track the impact of the improper disposal of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) in LA County. In the first year of tracking this item, PPE was one of the top 10 items found by our volunteers, surpassing common items like glass bottles.
Through our data, we can clearly see the effects of the pandemic on our waste stream. Another observation is that people are relying more than ever on takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining at beaches, parks, and other public spaces. Disposable foodware accessories like utensils, straws, and takeout containers were some of the most common items found during cleanups.
The Plastic Problem
Looking at the data collected throughout Coastal Cleanup Month, it’s obvious that single-use plastic is the top offender. From utensils and straws to takeout containers and grocery bags, our lives are filled with plastic – and so is our environment. Unfortunately, the effects of COVID-19 have worsened these single-use habits and curbed a lot of progress that we’ve seen in Los Angeles over the last several years.
Plastic grocery bags were a common item found during cleanups until California became the first state in the nation to impose a statewide bag ban in 2014. Before the pandemic hit, we were making great strides in reducing our single-use plastic waste. We could bring our reusable bags to the grocery store and refill our reusable coffee cups at Starbucks, and our environment and community were all the better for it. Now, plastic producers are using the pandemic to push disposable plastics as a safer option, a position that has no scientific merit. They were able to undo the work of the state bag ban, and grocery stores statewide have not only reintroduced single-use plastic bags, but many have banned reusable bags from entering stores. This year, we saw plastic grocery bags, cups, and lids in the top 10 items found by our volunteers during Coastal Cleanup Month.
We also found that other than cigarette butts and PPE, the top 10 items are all food and drink-related. With the increasing reliance on takeout and delivery, plastic cutlery and other accessories are becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Restaurants often throw these items in takeout bags regardless of whether the customer needs them or not. To put this in perspective, 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown away each year in the United States. Plastic foodware items, like straws, utensils, and condiment packets cannot be recycled, so they are destined to end up in a landfill, incinerator, or polluting our oceans and communities.
How Can You Help?
Plastic pollution may seem like something that is out of your control. However, there are easy ways you can help make waves of change, from using reusable products when you can to supporting environmental legislation. Here are 3 easy ways to make a change:
From grocery bags and utensils to water bottles and coffee cups, there are reusable replacements for almost all single-use plastics. Check out our Heal the Bay Shop for some ideas! If you’re ordering takeout or delivery, make sure to tell the restaurant “no plastic, please!” and use your own utensils instead. Check out Reusable LA and Habits of Waste for easy ways to help combat this issue, like sending an email to third party delivery companies asking them to make plastic cutlery and accessories optional rather than the default. If you’re unsure where to start, conduct a home waste audit to evaluate your daily habits and see where you can replace single-use items with reusables.
Pack it out.
As a result of limited staff and the increased need to sanitize the bathrooms as a result of COVID-19, Los Angeles County Beaches & Harbors only has the capacity to empty the public trash cans once a day. Combined with the surge of beachgoers picnicking on the sand, this has led to an overwhelming problem of overflowing trash cans and increased beach litter. Similar issues have been observed throughout the County, so if you are enjoying our public spaces, make sure that all trash gets disposed of properly, and pack it out if trash cans are full.
Use your voice.
Every single person has power! You influence the people close to you by voicing your opinion, you influence companies with the purchases you choose to make, and you can influence policy and legislation with your vote. The California bag ban is a good example of local change leading the charge and turning into statewide change, so don’t underestimate the power of advocating at your local City Council or with the County Board of Supervisors. At its core, plastic pollution is not a consumer problem; it’s a producer problem, and you can use your voice to support plastic policies that make plastic producers responsible for the waste they create.
Get Involved with Heal the Bay
We are excited with the results of Coastal Cleanup Month, but protecting our watersheds and coastline is an everyday effort. There are ways you can continue to stay involved and support our clean water mission year-round with different programs like Adopt-a-Beach, Club Heal the Bay, and MPA Watch. If you’re ready for more action to protect our oceans, join our virtual Volunteer Orientation on October 12. And don’t forget to save the date in September 2021 for next year’s Coastal Cleanup efforts!
For the first time ever, Coastal Cleanup Day has transformed into Coastal Cleanup Month, a month-long event to celebrate our watersheds and coastline with decentralized cleanups, educational programming, and virtual events.
Every single one of us makes an impact no matter where we are in Los Angeles County. The mission of Coastal Cleanup Month, beyond cleaning up our streets, creeks, trails, and coast, is to show how closely we are all connected by our watershed. What happens in the mountains makes its way through our creeks and rivers, and the litter we see on our streets eventually ends up on our beaches via the storm drain system.
Heal the Bay has coordinated the Coastal Cleanup effort in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, and we are so thankful to our Site Captains for making the program as successful and impactful as it is. This year, our Captains were tasked with a new challenge: to help us encourage countywide cleanups while also making sure our community stays safe and healthy during these turbulent times. With their support, the role of Site Captains transformed into Regional Ambassadors.
Many of our Regional Ambassadors work for partner organizations that focus on environmental stewardship, conservation, and education throughout LA County, from summit to sea. Today, we are spotlighting some of our amazing Regional Ambassadors from each region!
Dave Weeshoff, San Fernando Valley Audubon Society
“In Los Angeles County alone, we can see well over 270 species of birds each year. Bird watchers enjoy sharing their observations, and so I learn each week where unusual sightings occur, including our seashores, lagoons, harbors, parks, marshes and of course our magnificent San Gabriel Mountains. The additional biodiversity of this high elevation watershed and its forests is easily accessed by way of the Angeles Crest Highway, which begins not far from my home, and is inviting to many resident and migratory birds throughout the year.”
Dave’s favorite cleanup site and happy place, the San Gabriel Mountains, has unfortunately been affected by the Bobcat Fire. While this put a hold on his cleanup efforts throughout Coastal Cleanup Month, he has been enjoying the local parks and cleaning his neighborhood when he can.
Kelsey Reckling, Pasadena Audubon Society
Kelsey and Pasadena Audubon Society are using Coastal Cleanup Month to highlight the Arroyo, the natural watershed that starts in the San Gabriel Mountains and comes all the way down into our neighborhoods. It is home to many species of wildlife, but also a spot where trash often accumulates. Pasadena Audubon Society is encouraging members and anyone else in the area to help clean our mountain areas, the Arroyo, and our neighborhoods.
“I love driving up to the San Gabriels here in Los Angeles because it is so close to us, but it feels like you’re entering a new world. You get to see different plant species and different bird species at higher elevations and also get to have a new perspective,” said Kelsey. “On a clear day, you can look out and see downtown Los Angeles and all the way to the ocean, highlighting our different natural communities.”
Neighborhoods & Waterways
Keyla Treitman, Oak Park Unified School District
Keyla has been a resident of Oak Park for 27 years and chaired the Oak Park Unified School District’s Environmental Education and Awareness Committee for 11 years.
“I feel we all have an obligation to leave a place cleaner than when we got there, a motto the Girl Scouts taught me long ago. Sustainability is a key concept that is important for children to learn so they can do their part to help. By educating them, it can become a natural extension of their daily lives.”
Keyla shared about Coastal Cleanup Month with the school district to encourage families to go out and clean their happy place. They are also working with the County of Ventura and volunteers to refresh the curb signs that read, “Don’t dump. Drains to creek.” at all of the storm drain inlets within Oak Park.
Mika Perron, Audubon Center at Debs Park
Mika is spearheading the Coastal Cleanup Month efforts for the Audubon Center at Debs Park. To help protect bird habitat around the LA River, Mika and her team are participating in cleanups along the LA River in the Elysian Valley and Atwater Village area. They are also cleaning up and maintaining the various habitat enhancement sites along the river, in order to continue building sustainable habitat for birds and other wildlife.
“Our neighborhoods and waterways provide valuable habitat for local and migrating birds, while also providing a gateway for people to learn more about our urban ecosystem. Even if it’s just observing a few crows outside your window, or catching a glimpse of the rushing LA River when it rains, our neighborhoods and waterways provide a place where people can interact with nature in their everyday lives. Local waterways like the LA River are especially important to us because they connect many different neighborhoods and communities – they are not only an important resource for connecting people to nature, but also for connecting people to each other.”
Wetlands & Beaches
Patrick Tyrrell, Friends of Ballona Wetlands
Patrick grew up in Playa del Rey with the Ballona Wetlands as his backyard, inspiring a life-long passion for wetlands and wildlife. He turned that passion into a career by joining the team at Friends of Ballona Wetlands, and is our Wetlands Ambassador for Coastal Cleanup Month.
“Wetlands provide habitat to an amazing array of plants and animals – they are the world’s biological hotspots. They provide food and shelter that are critical to the survival of many species. Every time I travel, I always look up the local wetlands in the area I am visiting, as I know that I will get to see some amazing birds and wildlife.”
Patrick and the Friends of Ballona Wetlands staff are spending the month of September picking up trash along the Ballona Creek levees and Del Rey Lagoon. They are also cleaning up near the Least Tern colony on Venice Beach to ensure that they are not disturbed by the beach groomers that would normally rake the beach every morning.
Brittney Olaes, Roundhouse Aquarium
Brittney joined us as a Beaches Ambassador from the Roundhouse Aquarium in Manhattan Beach, where she gets to share her passion for the ocean and marine life with her local community.
“When imagining the beautiful vast ocean, it’s hard to narrow down its importance. The ocean is home to countless marine life and habitats. It provides comfort and relaxation to those who visit, jobs and security for those who depend on it, and food and supplies for those who survive off it. Even for those who do not directly interact with the ocean, the ocean is making an impact in our lives. From climate regulation to oxygen production, the ocean affects all life around the world.”
The Roundhouse Aquarium is celebrating Coastal Cleanup Month by virtually educating the community about where trash comes from and where it ends up, and encouraging environmental and community stewardship. They are also running a #TrashChallenge to challenge everyone to pick up trash every day in September.
Carl Carranza, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Carl’s lifelong passion for the ocean and marine life led him to become an Educator with
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. He has been involved with Coastal Cleanup Day for 15 years, and this year, he is one of our Beach Ambassadors.
“Ever since I was a child, I was in love with the ocean, especially tidepools. They have always been a source of joy and wonder for me, and ultimately led me to my degree in marine biology. The ocean is a place I can always reconnect to nature and frees my imagination,” said Carl.
A big thank you to all of our Regional Ambassadors for helping make Coastal Cleanup Month a success! If you’re interested in getting involved and helping protect our watershed and coastline from wherever you live, visit healthebay.org/coastalcleanupmonth.
More Ways to Get Involved this Coastal Cleanup Month:
Beach Programs Manager, Emely Garcia, highlights how Heal the Bay is relaunching our Adopt-A-Beach cleanup program to be a safe, fun, and refreshing summer challenge.
For more than 20 years, Heal the Bay’s Adopt-A-Beach cleanup volunteers have worked together to keep LA County’s natural and coastal resources heathy and safe. Our Adopt-A-Beach program gives passionate volunteers the tools to lead independent cleanups, collect critical marine debris data, and actively participate in protecting what we love. Since mid-March, Heal the Bay has postponed all public cleanup programming to protect public health in response to COVID-19, and we look forward to hosting public cleanups once it is safer to gather.
With the start of summer, we’re excited to relaunch our official Adopt-A-Beach Program for individuals, families, and households that are eager to be a part of the solution to ocean pollution. Ocean pollution starts at our front doors, and local trash on our streets travels through the storm drain systems, creeks, and rivers to become beach and ocean pollution. Everyone can take part and help prevent ocean-bound trash by participating in local neighborhood cleanups. Heal the Bay volunteers have removed more than 2.5 million pounds of trash from L.A County beaches, rivers and neighborhoods. Our newly reimagined Adopt-A-Beach program is adapted to support you and your household to lead a safe and fun cleanup.
About the Official Adopt-A-Beach Program
Our Adopt-A-Beach program originally began as an effort to protect our coastal resource, but Adopt-A-Beach volunteers are encouraged to participate at any location that needs TLC in LA County, such as a park, street, creek, or beach.To participate in the Adopt-A-Beach program, a group needs to commit to cleaning up a favorite outdoor location three times in a year. The program is extremely flexible and allows participants to choose the day, time, and location of their cleanups. Plus, it’s a fun and active way to get involved community science research. (See our guidelines for more details*)
What’s the incentive?
Heal the Bay Educational resources and safety talk from Heal the Bay’s Speakers Bureau.
Oh, what a year! We reflect on some of our favorite milestones from this past year. A huge thank you goes out to our bold and dedicated Heal the Bay community. We would not have achieved these victories without your ongoing support.
Take a swim down memory lane with us and replay 6 unforgettable moments from 2019.
6. Released our first-ever Stormwater Report—a groundbreaking assessment of stormwater pollution management in Los Angeles County.
In our new Stormwater Report we found that local governments have made shockingly minimal progress in addressing stormwater pollution over the last 30 years. If the current rate of stormwater pollution cleanup continues, LA County communities will wait another 60 years for clean water.
The LA County stormwater permit, the only real mechanism we have for regulating stormwater pollution, is up for renewal in early 2020. Heal the Bay is pushing hard for a strong stormwater permit. We fear it will be weakened and deadlines will be extended, further delaying cleanup of local waters. Municipalities can tap into various funding sources to implement projects, so there is no reason for them to not make meaningful progress moving forward.
Our Stormwater Report was big news for LA and was covered by the L.A. Times, The Guardian, NBC, CBS, KCRW, KPCC, KNX, LAist, The Argonaut News, Daily Breeze, Patch and more.
Photo by Kelton Mattingly
5. Welcomed our 1 millionth visitor to Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier.
Since our Aquarium opened its doors in 2003, our mission has been to give visitors an underwater experience of the Pacific Ocean without getting their feet wet. We invite all our guests to explore critically important marine habitats and environmental issues.
From swell sharks to red octopus, and seahorses to stingrays, more than 100 local wildlife species thrive at our Aquarium. And now we can proudly say that more than a million visitors have met our local underwater residents!
Around 100,000 visitors come to Heal the Bay Aquarium each year. Local residents and global tourists share their passion for their own local waterways with us and inquire about how to protect what they love. In order to better serve the public, we’ve centered our programs and events around environmental advocacy, community science, pollution prevention and family education.
We also host 10,000-15,000 students each year for school field trips and we offer fun, educational, zero-waste birthday parties.
4. Hosted our 30th anniversary of Coastal Cleanup Day as the LA County coordinator.
What an honor it has been for Heal the Bay to steward this annual event since the 1990s, especially with such vibrant community support. Our very first Coastal Cleanup Day hosted 2,000 volunteers – my how far we’ve come! From diving underwater in the Santa Monica Bay to hiking along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and everywhere in between, 13,914 volunteers removed more than 30,165 pounds of trash — from 79 locations in Los Angeles County, in a span of three-hours — on Coastal Cleanup Day 2019.
The weirdest finds from 2019 included: A laptop and electric scooters (underwater in Santa Monica); A 20 foot industrial ladder (underwater in Redondo Beach); Horseshoe (Compton Creek); Cat skull (South LA); Positive pregnancy test (White Point Beach); Shake weight (Venice); Half a rat (Arroyo Seco Confluence); and a California King Mattress-sized Styrofoam block (Arroyo Seco Confluence).
3. Supported Straws-On-Request going into effect in the City of LA.
Los Angeles City Hall passed the Straws-On-Request ordinance this past Earth Day, making single-use plastic straws available by request only at all food and beverage facilities in the City of LA. This, along with other plastic reduction strategies, will hopefully decrease the amount of trash we see in our environment while still giving patrons access to straws when needed.
Often times plastic trash flows from our streets into our storm drains and out to the ocean. Plastic straws and disposable beverage, food, and snack-related items are some of the top types of trash we find at Heal the Bay cleanups. In fact, our cleanup volunteers have picked up more than 138,000 plastic straws from LA beaches over the last two decades.
The Ocean Protection Council acknowledges that trash in the ocean is a persistent and growing problem that is negatively affecting human and ecosystem health, not to mention coastal beauty. We’ll continue to work locally and at the state-level in California to reduce the use of harmful single-use plastics.
2. Rejoiced over these announcements: Hyperion will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater and LA will phase out gas-fired coastal power plants.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant (aka sewage treatment plant), one of the largest in the world, will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater by 2035. The water will be treated extensively and then put into our local groundwater supply for additional treatment by natural soils. Afterwards, the clean water will be pumped up to replenish our local tap water supply. Hyperion’s capacity is 450 million gallons per day and treated water currently flows out to the ocean. But with full recycling at Hyperion we can re-use that water!
Garcetti’s next big announcement was that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will close three coastal gas-burning power plants in El Segundo, Long Beach and the Los Angeles Harbor area by 2029. The plants will be replaced by renewable energy sources and storage.
Heal the Bay was integral to both advancements. We advocated for over a decade for wastewater recycling and for eliminating the marine impacts of the coastal power plants. Our founder Dorothy Green would be so proud of us, and of our City, for taking these giant steps forward.
1. Celebrated the new listing of the Santa Monica Bay Street Beach in the National Register of Historic Places.
The shoreline at Bay Street in Santa Monica was an active hub of African American beach life during the Jim Crow era. This beach was popular from the 1900s to early 1960s among African Americans, who were barred from enjoying most other southland beaches. Santa Monica’s Bay Street Beach Historic District recent listing in the National Register of Historic Places recognizes this important coastal history.
Since 2013, with the help of African American historian Alison Rose Jefferson, we’ve joined forces with the Black Surfers Collective to honor Nick Gabaldón Day at Santa Monica Bay Street Beach.
Nick Gabaldón (1927-1951) was a pioneering surfer of African American and Mexican American descent. He was the first documented surfer of color in the Santa Monica Bay. Nick Gabaldón Day provides an opportunity for broadening outreach, action and education to connect Angelenos with their cultural, historical and natural heritage.
This year, we celebrated our 30th anniversary as the LA County coordinator for Coastal Cleanup Day. It has been an honor for Heal the Bay to steer this annual event since the 90s, especially with such vibrant community support.
Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay president says, “After 30 years of beach cleanups, we are still picking up tons and tons of trash on Coastal Cleanup Day. That’s frustrating, but the good news is that our work continues to make a difference. We see fewer plastic bags since they were banned in LA County and statewide a few years ago, so we know that changing our habits does make a difference.”
From diving underwater in the Santa Monica Bay to hiking along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and everywhere in between, 13,914 volunteers removed more than 30,165 pounds of trash — from 79 locations in Los Angeles County, in a span of three-hours — on Coastal Cleanup Day 2019.
The Most Trash:
Agoura Hills/Medea Creek (120 people, 4,500 pounds of trash)
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve (153 people, 3,358 pounds of trash)
Long Beach – Alamitos Bay Marina (1,226 people, 2,376 pounds of trash)
The Most People:
The location with the most people was Santa Monica State Beach – North of Santa Monica Pier, which clocked in at 1,260 volunteers and 782 pounds of trash.
The Local Heroes:
Overall 229 intrepid divers took journeys at 6 different underwater locations to remove an incredible 1,078 pounds of trash from the ocean.
At the Redondo Beach Pier in King Harbor, Thomas Kruger, head of the Dive Division at Dive N’ Surf and fellow divers Michael Cruz, Cory Alexander and Redondo Beach Police Department officers Jason Sapien and Nolan Beranek took to the waves to uncover and pull a 20-foot, 250-pound industrial ladder out from under the pier.
The ladder required three 50 pound lift bags and a 200 pound lift bag to raise it off the seafloor. This was the biggest and heaviest piece of trash collected in LA at this year’s event.
“More than 13,000 people gave their time and energy to pick up trash today, including hundreds of divers who were our heroes on Coastal Cleanup Day, going to great depths to pick up trash, including tangled fishing lines, dozens of pairs of sunglasses and goggles, a huge industrial ladder and e-scooters. That’s some nasty trash! We so appreciate their help,” remarks Shelley.
A 20 foot industrial ladder (underwater in Redondo Beach)
Horseshoe (Compton Creek)
Cat skull (South LA)
Positive pregnancy test (White Point Beach)
Shake weight (Venice)
Half a rat (Arroyo Seco Confluence)
California King Mattress-sized Styrofoam block (Arroyo Seco Confluence)
We organized 79 sites this year – here’s a deeper look at four incredible locations in Los Angeles County — from summit to sea.
San Gabriel River – EastFork
This year, for the first time, the San Gabriel River – East Fork area took part in Coastal Cleanup Day!
From mountain lions and bighorn sheep to the threatened Santa Ana Suckers, this special place in the San Gabriel Mountains is a hotspot for biodiversity. The San Gabriel Mountains were designated as a National Monument in 2014. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “The designation will help ensure these lands remain a benefit for all Americans through rock art that provides a glimpse into ancient civilizations, an observatory that brought the world the cosmos, and thousands of miles of streams, hiking trails and other outdoor recreation opportunities.”
Other new sites added to LA County’s Coastal Cleanup Day this year included Zuma Beach, Temescal Canyon Park and Rio del Los Angeles. Emely Garcia, Heal the Bay Beach Programs Manager and organizer of Coastal Cleanup Day says, “the new sites are extremely important because they add to the spectrum of representation for unique wild places you can only find in LA.”
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
Tucked away in the San Fernando Valley, adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Areaboasts winding, flat trails through the floodplain, marshes and ponds in an expansive recreation, habitat restoration and wildlife area.
On Coastal Cleanup Day, 153 volunteers removed a whopping 3,358 pounds of trash from the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, a refuge for 240 bird species that migrate, nest or live in the area. Kris Ohlenkamp, a resident expert on the endemic and migrating birds of the Sepulveda Basin who works with the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, says many birds come and go with each season and therefore it’s always an exciting time for bird watching. Kris hosts monthly bird walks in the area, which is also home to local California plants, including Fremont’s cottonwood, Coast live oak, Valley oak and California sycamore.
He shared our concern for the declining bird populations. The number of birds in the United States and Canada has decreased by 3 billion (29 percent) over the past half-century as reported recently in the NY Times. This sobering statistic has put the spotlight on what we can do locally to save the birds. Important actions we must take include protecting and restoring the remaining wildlife areas in our region, which provide habitats for birds and animals.
Arroyo Seco Confluence
The Arroyo Seco is a major tributary of the LA River; the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the LA River is historically and culturally significant as it was an area utilized by the Gabrieliño-Tongva people and others. Today, the confluence’s ecosystem is drastically different; the two channelized waterways are encased in concrete – often mistaken for roads, not the rivers that they are.
On Coastal Cleanup Day, there were groups from Pasadena City College and CSULA among others and in total 73 volunteers showed up at Arroyo Seco Confluence. Participants cleaned along an access road down to the LA River and in the channels, pulling out over 1,500 pounds of trash, including a potato, half of a dead rat, shopping carts, a Home Depot metal lumber cart and so much plastic and smaller items stuck in river muck and sediment.
“Nearing the end of the cleanup, I was so impressed to see many of the volunteers really getting adventurous – some were just in sneakers, but fully in the river muck and water, going after that next piece of trash just out of arm’s distance,” recalls Katherine Pease, site captain and Heal the Bay scientist.
Speaking of weird trash, Scouts from Troops 5 and 55 of Pasadena removed a California-King mattress-sized block of Styrofoam from a different part of the Arroyo Seco, near the Rose Bowl. As volunteers carried it up a hill, the foam crumbled apart, so they had a train of followers picking up all the pieces.
Coastal Cleanup Day at Dockweiler Youth Center. Photo by Venice Paparazzi
One cleanup site, welcoming families with games and good, clean fun, was the Dockweiler Youth Center and State Beach, co-hosted by the Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors and LA Waterkeeper. Together these organizations threw a cleanup party with colorful arts and crafts, raffles and an annual poster contest that wraps ocean-inspired artwork around trash receptacles on public beaches and parks in LA.
“The Dockweiler cleanup drew hundreds of volunteers who affirmatively demonstrated their desire for a better, cleaner coast. The number of young people who participated gave us hope that our future leaders will care deeply for the ocean and our cherished beaches. They understand what must be done and are not afraid to make the needed changes in their daily lives that will lead to healthier, cleaner beaches and oceans – setting a great example and inspiring adults around them,” says Gary Jones, Director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors.
Heal the Bay has many to thank – from our statewide organizers to site captains to sponsors to all the partners and organizations that came together to make this day relevant and unique for so many people in LA and beyond.
“Some of the most memorable moments were meeting our new and returning site captains at our site captain trainings. Our 100+ site captain volunteers ranged from 16 to 75 years old; it was inspiring to see everyone engaged in lively conversation and listening to one another,” says Emely.
We’re grateful to get a front-row seat for the moment when so many local environmental all-stars shine!
A special thanks to ALL our Coastal Cleanup Day sponsors:
“We have amazing partners in this work. The Ocean Conservancy coordinates Coastal Cleanup Day all over the world and comes to our Los Angeles event every year, and this year we also had the K-Swiss team here picking up trash and sporting the new Heal the Bay shoes, which are made with recycled plastics and a reduced carbon footprint. We love working with both of these partners, and so many more, to keep our coasts and oceans clean,” Shelley continues.
“Our biggest concern today is still all the plastic trash – takeout containers, water bottles and caps, cigarette butts, food wrappers and disposable packaging are everywhere. We have got to reduce the volume of this toxic trash in our waterways and in our daily lives,” states Shelley.
We’re already saving the date for next year’s Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 19, 2020! Sign up for our email alert to stay in the loop.
Meet the local artist and illustrator behind our 2019 Coastal Cleanup Day poster, and get a glimpse of the process all the way from brainstorm to sketchbook to print. We love the final product and the journey it took to get here, thanks so much Aaron!
Give us some background on yourself and this project.
My name is Aaron Gonzalez and I’m a Los Angeles-based creative. The majority of my work is a stylized documentation of what’s going on around me, so my work naturally reflects L.A. It was a real honor to spend time drawing the variety of wildlife in L.A. County for this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day. My work tends to be a blend between representational and imaginative drawings, but this project leaned more on the representational side. Below is the final product.
What was your goal, inspiration, and process for creating this poster?
In addition to advertising Coastal Cleanup Day, the main goals of this poster were to highlight the local wildlife living throughout and watershed running through L.A. County. It was important to Heal the Bay and I to provide a visual aid explaining a watershed, since there is a lack of visuals on the topic. Watersheds keep L.A. County connected through waterways that flow from summit to sea. It’s extremely necessary we keep our waterways clean because it has a direct impacy on our water supply and the health of our natural environment.
We decided to break the poster up into thirds to represent the mountain, river, and ocean regions. By including these three regions, we hoped to communicate how Coastal Cleanup Day doesn’t only have cleanup sites on the coast, but throughout L.A. County. I depicted L.A. County’s watersheds with a painting made up of loops flowing through the composition and ending where the poster text begins. I’ve always been a big fan of hidden messages within images, so I included “LA” within the waterways toward the top of the poster.
A collection of poster iterations we explored, before settling on the final version.
During the poster design process, I took a couple of trips to Heal the Bay Aquarium and spent some time with a few of the marine animals I was drawing. I also took a trip to visit my sister, who is studying wildlife biology at Humboldt State. She gave me insight on what to be mindful of when depicting animal and plant life. For example, how the wrong petal or leaf count can determine one plant species from another. Heal the Bay provided me with a hefty list of animal and plant species to include, along with their scientific names, so it made my job easier and the drawings more accurate. It was also super helpful to have in-house aquarists at Heal the Bay Aquarium and scientists at Heal the bay to double check the accuracy of each species.
What were some of your favorite parts of the process and things to illustrate?
My favorite animal to illustrate was the egret. Not only is it iconic to L.A., but the physical features are super interesting. I like to draw wavy and wobbly lines, so drawing the egret’s elongated neck was really satisfying. I had to keep the consistency of drawing representational wildlife throughout the poster, but I kept thinking about the possibilities of drawing an egret with an extra long wobbly neck with twists and turns similar to the waterways in the background. One of the toughest animals to draw was the sea hare. For the longest time, I didn’t know what I was looking at. They look like deformed blobs with spots. It was one of those drawings where you didn’t know what you were making until it was done. I had to draw multiple sea hares, close my notebook, open it the next day with fresh eyes until I understood what they were. Now they’ve become some of my favorite drawings from the poster.
Another aspect of the project I was really excited about was the Korean lettering for the poster’s language variations. I am not familiar with Korean, so it felt like I was creating abstract shapes and developing a secret code. The challenge was to make the Korean text match the type style I was creating for the English and Spanish versions, maintain the consistency of each character’s height and width, and do my best to keep it legible. I managed to recognize a few patterns within the text by the end of it and I now look at signs in Koreatown a lot differently. I sent off what I came up with and was excited to hear it was approved by the Korean translator.
On top of the watershed, I sprinkled each wildlife species in their proper region. I keep imagining these drawings as textile adorning objects. Forming textile designs based on specific groups within a particular region would be great. For example, all of the plant life from the river and mountain regions living on a button down shirt or sundress. Or a collection of aquatic life forming a pattern on the interior of a beach bag. The possibilities are endless.
Overall, it was an amazing opportunity to design this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day poster. Heal the Bay is an incredible organization who has been amazing to work with from start to finish. Thank you for all that you do.
If you’re curious to see more of Aaron’s work, check out his website and Instagram.
Looking to give back and create cleaner and more vibrant communities alongside thousands of your neighbors? Join us on Saturday, September 21 for our biggest cleanup of the year. It’s Heal the Bay’s 30th year coordinating Coastal Cleanup Day in Los Angeles County. For our anniversary, we’ll be upping our game with more than 70 cleanup sites – inland, coastal, habitat restoration and underwater – to volunteer at, a Sock Drive at our Santa Monica sites in support of people experiencing homelessness and free admission to our Heal the Bay Aquarium for all participants.
Our 70+ cleanup sites are located throughout L.A. County, ranging from wildlife habitat restoration areas such as the coastal dunes under the LAX flight path, to the L.A. River and San Gabriel River areas, and lots of places in between.
Inland sites include Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Ballona Creek Bike Path, L.A. River, Lake Balboa, Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, Madea Creek, Avalon Gardens, Arroyo Seco, Compton Creek, Elysian Valley Gateway Park, Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, Koreatown, Pacoima, Hyde Park Boulevard, San Fernando and Santa Clarita.
Coastal sites include Catalina Island, Dockweiler Beach, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Palos Verdes peninsula, Playa del Rey, Redondo Beach, San Gabriel, San Pedro, Santa Monica, Torrance, Topanga and Venice.
Habitat restoration sites include the LAX Dunes and the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, Alta Vicente Reserve, Medea Creek and Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve.
Underwater sites include Malibu Pier, Leo Carrillo State Beach, Redondo County Beach, Dockweiler State Beach and the Santa Monica Pier.
See all of our cleanup sites on our handy map and sign up.
Our Watershed Connects Us All
We are wild for L.A., which is why we mobilize thousands of volunteers to participate on this single day of action. Our combined efforts remove trash and debris from the natural environment by the ton and help protect local biodiversity across our watershed.
Can you find the “LA” hidden within the river on the poster?
Our Coastal Cleanup Day 2019 poster, created by local artist and illustrator Aaron Gonzalez, celebrates local wildlife species found right here in L.A. County, and highlights how our winding waterways connect many unique habits from summit to sea. It’s critical that we protect all of our local habitats, animals and communities.
Download and share our poster in English,Spanish, and Korean using the hashtags #healthebay and #coastalcleanupday.
Helpful Tips for Coastal Cleanup Day
Try carpooling, ridesharing, biking or taking mass transit to avoid parking and traffic jams – and, please arrive early.
“BYO”—Help us reduce waste by bringing your own buckets, reusable bags and gloves to pick up trash. However, cleanup supplies will be available at each site.
Bring a reusable water bottle and wear sun block, a hat and sunglasses.
If you’re coming with a big group, have everyone print and sign waivers in advance. It speeds up check-in!
We’re organizing a Sock Drive, at our Santa Monica sites, in support of people experiencing homelessness. You can drop off new and gently used socks, which will be donated to West Coast Care.
When you take part in Coastal Cleanup Day you get FREE admission to our Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier.
We’ve launched a Change.org petition that urges the California Senate and Assembly to approve the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. Over 410,000 signatures have been gathered so far and our goal is to reach 500,000 by Coastal Cleanup Day. Add your name!