We have been at this now 7 years running on almost 8. Sometimes we get big groups of volunteers an sometimes very few. Sometimes we will get several hundreds of pounds of trash off of the beach and sometimes under hundred. One thing you can always guarantee is there will be a few volunteers who come back with a trash bag with maybe a bottle cap and a piece of styrofoam. They say, "The beach is really clean today", and continue on. Now this could be due to the volunteer not being in the mood to pick up trash, (we get it, it's 9 a.m. on a Saturday) or they really believe the beach is that clean. When you look back at this past summer every cleanup in Huntington Beach alone averaged more than 200lbs. of trash taken off of the beach. So you may ask if some say the beach is clean where is the rest of the trash hiding?
At a typical cleanup, you are given gloves and a bag with instructions on how far to go and generally time to be back. The instructions end there and off you go into the sand. But what most volunteers don't know is that the beach alone is not the only place you will find trash. Here are a few more spots to check while you are out there.
The Parking Lot:
For obvious reasons, this is the beginning of the entrance and exit to the beach. Some people may be fumbling with chairs or coolers and may drop some trash. Or perhaps a local surfer scars down a quick energy bar before hitting the water and drops his wrapper on the floor. "No time to spare brah, waves are firing", those are just some of the most common examples. If you look close enough in the corners and crevices of the beach parking lots you will find tons of trash piled up from days, weeks and often times months. It's not uncommon to see a volunteer at a Coastal Playground cleanup to wander back rolling a tire or finding a wet mattress laid out in the lot somewhere. One piece of advice while scouring the parking lot is to watch out for cars coming in and backing out.
Parking Lot Find Photo: AR
Ok, so river jetties is included in this because at our Huntington Beach cleanup there is one directly to the left of where we set up. After heavy rains, all of the water pushes the trash from the storm drains out into the river jetty. Of course, most of this trash will not just be displayed in the runoff. It will be hidden in between rock crevices that make up the jetty. There are no common types of trash that you will encounter there you never know what you are going to find. A word of caution when looking for trash near a jetty, as sticking your hand into rock crevices you may encounter sharp objects protruding which you may not see. So if you do decide to search the river jetties be safe, always wear gloves, and if you have a trash picker upper, that would be most ideal.
Fellow Beach Goers
Now, this is not the most stereotypical when looking for trash but one of the easiest and most appreciative of the three. You are at the beach drinking water out of your plastic bottle (don't worry we are not judging) and eating a burger from a local fast food joint. You're done but the trash can is like 100 feet away and you are so full and lazy you just want to chill. What to do? I found that walking up to fellow beach goers offering to take the trash off of there hands is a great way to not only meet people but to let others know that there are people out there who still take the time out of there schedules to do something good for the environment. What is really cool is that believe or not good vibes can really rub off on people. And what's a world without good vibes?
So when you decide to take the plunge and volunteer your time to clean the beach just know that it’s not only the sand that the trash lies. It sets up shop in the parking lots, the jetties, and fellow beach goers blankets as well.