By Paula White
Last Saturday was an amazing day for the Bay, creeks and watersheds all across the state thanks to the more than 30,000 volunteers who came out to participate in Coastal Cleanup Day. In Contra Costa County, there were close to 20 events happening all at the same time, bringing out nearly 800 volunteers. Together we hauled out over 10,000 pounds of trash! Wow.
The Watershed Project co-hosted two events, one in Richmond at Shimada Friendship Park and the other at Albany Beach. At Shimada, we celebrated the day with County Supervisor John Gioia and his great team, and got a huge amount of support from the City of Richmond. A big shout out to the nearly 200 volunteers who not only removed 659 pounds of trash from the shoreline but also collected data on 2,973 items. This year’s most common plastic item was (drum roll) plastic bottle caps, with a total of 367, barely edging out food wrappers (360). The most unusual items found were a shoe, a bright pink Victoria Secret lotion bottle, and an electrical outlet.
At Albany, 80 some volunteers came and many spent hours sifting microplastics on the beach. We had a great collaboration with our partners from the Albany Landfill Dog Owners Group, Wholly H2O, SPAWNERS, and the East Bay Regional Park District. Albany’s most unusual item this year was a bamboo flute.
Many students from Ocean View Elementary attended the Albany event and made sure that each item that got picked up was recorded on a tally card. The data collected by these budding community scientists who participate in Coastal Cleanup each year have contributed to major wins for the environment, such as the statewide plastic bag ban, local bans on styrofoam products, and the use of compostable straws by companies such as Starbucks. This year’s big environmental win is SB54: The Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act. The law will require all single-use packaging to be compostable or recyclable by 2032, and will force producers of packaging to pay for the costs of creating and managing new recycling and waste management infrastructure.
Today the San Francisco Bay is cleaner and healthier than it was 50 years ago because people demanded action to protect the environment. The Federal Government passed the Clean Water Act in the 1970s and California established the Coastal Commission to protect the 1000+ miles of shoreline in the state. The environmental movement is alive and well not only in California but across the world. On Coastal Cleanup Day many other countries hosted Coastal Cleanup events too including India, the Philippines, Portugal, Great Britain, Nigeria, and Jamaica, to name a few. This event, and our watershed model (see image below), shows how we are all connected through water and that what happens in our own backyard impacts the entire world.
Thanks for being part of the solution to plastic pollution!