September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

Beach and coastline cleanups have been a focus of many caring
citizens and environmental groups for decades. The most-publicized
beach cleanup effort, Coastal Cleanup Day, is typically slotted for
a day in September. This year, the event has expanded into an
entire month with the goal of involving more people at every level
and from every community — not just those near the beach.
According to Surfrider
Foundation
, “International Coastal Cleanup Month (formerly
International Coastal Cleanup Day) is one of the world’s largest
annual preservation
and protection
events and volunteer efforts for our ocean,
waves and beaches.”

people cleaning up trash near a river

Register your own coastal cleanup — wherever that may be

One conservation organization, Heal the Bay in Los Angeles County,
serves as an example of this campaign by helping citizens
coordinate their own cleanup efforts with a centralized
registration system. As residents register events, other volunteers
can join the effort to coordinate larger cleanup activities.


Related: Atlantic has 10 times the microplastics previously
thought

The centralized information also allows organizers to track the
amount and types of garbage removed. Knowing what
has been collected is an effective way to identify the source of
the pollution and provide data for policymakers. Save Our Shores
recommends downloading the Clean Swell App to keep track of the
items in your trash pile. “Data collection is an important part
of Coastal Cleanup Day,” Save Our Shores explained. “The
data that is collected about the types and quantities of debris
picked up can be used for outreach, policy and advocacy, and
more!” Further, the organization suggests that one member of the
cleanup party be in charge of data collection to reduce the spread
of germs.

gloved hand picking up trash on a beach

Safety tips for your beach cleanup

To support community efforts, Heal
the Bay provides tutorials and tips for safe and effective cleanups
with information on how to dispose of collected trash and abide by
LA County Public Health guidelines along with details regarding
supplies and parking. Each region has varying needs, so
participants can access specific information for their
neighborhood.

During this time of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the organization
encourages social distancing during cleanups as well as the use of
masks and gloves. Participants should only work with members of
their own household and stay home if they feel ill. If you are in
an area impacted by the ongoing wildfires,
Heal the Bay advises
you to also stay home to minimize your
exposure to the smoke.

two friends picking up trash on a beach

Why is Coastal Cleanup Month important?

The primary goal of Coastal Clean Up Month is to reduce the
amount of debris that ends up in the waterways, including the
ocean. Ocean pollution, particularly plastic from inland as well
as boating activities, has become a massive environmental issue in
recent years. The cycle is toxic. Animals are harmed by items like
six-pack rings and plastic bags. Plastic in the waterways begins to
break down into microplastics, which marine animals ingest. This
comes full circle as seafood that may contain microplastics lands
onto our dinner plates.

In addition to waste removal, a secondary goal is to educate
communities about the hazards of ocean pollution and share the
importance of marine life and aquatic biodiversity. In addition,
the event promotes more sustainable activities such as recycling and minimizing
waste.

gloved hand picking up plastic bottle from sand

Make a difference one small step at a time

To support these educational efforts, Heal the Bay maintains
five programs that, “allow citizens to explore and learn about
the various issues facing the diverse regions that make up Los
Angeles.” Volunteers can facilitate touch tank visits at the
aquarium, participate in a beach cleanup, spread
information through the outreach program, contribute to community
science by collecting data or register middle and high school
students as part of the youth program.

The coordination in Los Angeles is just a
sampling of similar events across the nation and around the world.
In fact, Coastal Cleanup Month is a global movement that includes 6
million volunteers in 90 countries. Even though the efforts are
widespread, coronavirus restrictions have resulted in several
canceled events and made it difficult for organizers of various
organizations to spotlight the effort this year. With that in mind,
the push is for more of a grassroots coordination of many small
groups rather than fewer large ones.�

Related:
How to volunteer during COVID-19

That means the entire month of September is prime time to get
out and lead your own cleanup crew, whether that’s a party of one
or up to 10 people within the same household. With 30 years behind
this organized beach cleanup movement, organizers report
disappointment in not being able to host large events. However,
they say this is an opportunity for every citizen to tackle the
garbage in their own area, whether that be the street, park,
mountain, sides of the roadway or parking lot. Although that may
feel a little off-point, the majority of the garbage that ends up
in the ocean stems from further inland, so you can think of it as
confronting the problem at the source.

While it might seem that a neighborhood pickup isn’t enough,
individual efforts
make a huge impact. As an example, Heal the Bay provides
inspiration in the fact that, “In 2019, the Ocean Conservancy
reports that nearly 800,000 volunteers collectively removed more
than 20 million pieces of trash from beaches and waterways around
the world. That’s 20 million fewer potential impacts on whales,
turtles and other beloved ocean wildlife.†So whether in groups
of 1,000 or one, those same hands can make a difference for the
health of our planet.

+ Heal
the Bay


+ Surfrider Foundation

+ Save
Our Shores

Images via Adobe Stock

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for
2020