By Paula White and Maggie Chen
August is here, school has started for many, and the busy fall season is just around the corner. Next month in September, The Watershed Project is hosting two events on Saturday, September 23rd as part of the 39th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day. In Richmond we will be co-hosting our annual Shimada Friendship Park event with County Supervisor John Gioia and we will also be hosting an event at the Albany Beach and Bulb. We encourage you to find a cleanup near you by consulting the map on our Coastal Cleanup Day page that shows cleanups happening throughout Contra Costa County. Hover over a site to get detailed information about each event.
So what’s the big deal with Coastal Cleanup Day? Why has it become the world’s largest event and why should you care? In a word, plastic. Yes we’re concerned about plastic waste that clogs our rivers, streams, and swirls around in giant patches in the world’s oceans, harming both wildlife and people. But we’re also concerned about the entire dirty and destructive life cycle of plastic, starting with the extraction of petroleum to the production of plastic in cracker facilities to the landfilling of a forever product that is often used only once.
In this article we celebrate the work of changemakers who are standing up to those who profit from plastic production and are insisting on a better way forward. The first is Shilpi Chhotray, founder and executive director of People Over Plastic, a Bay Area organization that features stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are fighting against plastic pollution in their communities Dig into some articles, tune into some podcasts and educate yourself about the connections between slavery and the petrochemical industry.
Break Free From Plastic is an organization based in the Philippines that has created a global movement to stop the production and proliferation of single-use plastics. Since 2018 they have organized Brand Audits, often coinciding with Coastal Cleanup Day, to collect data on which companies produce the most plastic. Coca Cola has the dubious honor of being the number one global plastic polluter for five years in a row. Last year PepsiCo and Nestle took the 2nd and 3rd place spots respectively.
Break Free From Plastic’s goal is to create a global plastic treaty that will hold polluters accountable for reducing their production of plastic products, while piloting reuse systems in the Philippines that can eventually be scaled up.
Reuse systems are nothing new. Older people may remember when milk was delivered in glass bottles, and soda was sold in glass bottles that could be returned for a deposit. These systems not only produced less waste as the containers could be reused multiple times, but they also provided local jobs for entrepreneurs. Fill Good on Solano Ave in Berkeley has created a 21st century version of a reuse system for personal care products. You can bring in empty containers and fill them up with products like shampoo, dishwashing liquid and detergent for dishwashers, body lotion, and more. They also sell compostable toothbrushes made of bamboo and many other sustainable products.
Regardless of how you spend your last month of summer, we at The Watershed Project hope you join us for some of our upcoming Coastal Cleanup Day Events on Saturday September 23rd.
See you there!
Links to sign up here
People Over Plastic link tree.
Break Free From Plastic. Brand Audit Highlights and link to cumulative report.