Cleanup Recap: Buddy, Can You Spare a Bullet?

The tallies are in for the 26th annual Coastal Cleanup Day, says Communications Director Matthew King. It’s a landslide for cigarette butts and ammunition! 

Sept. 19, 2015 – Some people are political junkies. But we’re unabashed trash junkies here at Heal the Bay. And today’s Coastal Cleanup Day is an Election Night of sorts for our merry band of ocean lovers. After months of preparation, we all eagerly await turnout figures and the total pounds of debris collected in L.A. County, which we oversee for the California Coastal Commission.

Like a campaign manager, I spent the morning canvassing our precincts. Then I headed to the main office, where site captains phoned in results from our 50 cleanup locations, which ranged from Compton to Malibu.

Well, the preliminary numbers are in: 9,475 volunteers removed 21,310 pounds of trash, covering 60 miles of territory. That haul adds to an already impressive amount of trash collected by Heal the Bay during Coastal Cleanup Day over the past 26 years – more than 1.7 million pounds.

Everyday items comprise the bulk of the debris – cigarette butts, food wrappers, bits of Styrofoam, plastic bottle caps and the like. Scattered in piles to be weighed, this detritus looks like an archaeological dig, a telling testament to our throwaway culture and how we treat our natural places.

That said, a few unusual items made this year’s blotter of found objects. The mayor of Agoura found a wallet that contained $100 at our Medea Creek site in the West Valley, and she vows to try and reunite the owner and the trashy billfold. Among other unusual items: five .45 bullets (Redondo Beach Pier dive site), a bowling ball (Malaga Cove) and a dead rooster (Arroyo Seco/L.A. River confluence).

At my first stop this morning, the Hermosa Beach Pier, we didn’t find anything too unusual — unless you count a dead creature on the shoreline that looked like some kind of eel. 

I’ve been to hundreds of cleanups during my tenure here, and I can get jaded sometimes. But today’s cleanup at Hermosa reminded me once again about what makes Heal the Bay tick:

We are a volunteer-driven organization. When I arrived at the Pier, I saw Eric Schlobohm, a veteran member of our Speakers Bureau, giving a cleanup-safety talk to three families. Tanned with salt-and-pepper hair, Eric looked the part in his faded, vintage Heal the Bay T-shirt and flip flops. He succinctly explained how pollution reaches the sea, the impacts it has on wildlife, and what people can do in their everyday lives to reduce it. People like Eric are the heart of Heal the Bay.

We are educators, as much as activists. It was gratifying to see so many parents bringing their children to the cleanup in Hermosa. The kids ran toward the shore with infectious glee, looking for a piece of trash to impress Mom or Dad. They asked thoughtful questions when they brought back their trash to be catalogued. We know we aren’t going to clean up all the trash in L.A. County in a single day. But we do know that connecting young minds to the natural world is a smart thing to do. Today we hopefully sparked a lifetime sense of curiosity and stewardship in developing minds.

We attract cool people. Heal the Bay is fortunate to have the support of dozens of notable artists, entertainers, eco-entrepreneurs, writers and athletes. This morning, Bruna Schmitz, a pro surfer and “Roxy Girl,” came by to lend a hand at the Pier. Given her job, it should come as no surprise that she’s drop-dead gorgeous and a world-class shredder. But what strikes me about Bruna is that she’s tremendously down-to-Earth. She’s thankful to be connected to the sea on many levels.  Born in Brazil but now a Hermosa Beach resident, Bruna worked in tandem with HTB board member Kari Boiler. Together, they removed six pounds of ocean-bound debris from the sand.

Each of the 243 volunteers at the Hermosa Beach cleanup will go home with a story. But the biggest winner is the beach itself, now 400 lbs. less trashy, thanks to those 243.

Scenes like the below played out at all our sites this morning. Check them out in our Flickr album.

Coastal Cleanup Day 2015 photos

And one final shameless plug for our sponsors: California Coastal Commission, County of Los Angeles’ Department of Public Works, Union Bank, Mattel, City of Santa Monica, Kaiser Permanente, REI, AB InBev, simplehuman and KTLA. None of this good work could happen without their support.

Not to worry, if you missed today’s cleanup. You can still do your part. Our Programs staff hosts monthly beach cleanups throughout the year all over L.A. County. Come join us. You might be surprised about what you find.

If you’d like to support the work of Heal the Bay, please consider making a donation by clicking below.

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