1,000 Pounds of Trash

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Members of the Surfrider Foundation Los Angeles Chapter (left) and trash collected in a February Venice Beach cleanup. Photos: Surfrider Foundation.

Beach cleanups in Venice.

By Keldine Hull

One thing California is known for around the world is its breathtaking beaches. Tourists travel from all parts of the globe and flock to the famous California beaches, sometimes to realize that the reality doesn’t always live up to the hype.

Venice resident Jackson Rayfield recalls his first experience visiting the popular Santa Monica coastline.

“I went to Santa Monica Beach Pier to check out the beach. I grew up by the beach in Florida- white sands, clear water, beautiful. When I got to the coastline, I was baffled by how much trash was there. I was concerned. I didn’t find out until much later that I caught it on a fluke after a rainstorm,” Rayfield said.

Rayfield’s experience is not unlike so many others. Organizations like the Surfrider Foundation, founded by a group of surfers in 1984, are dedicated to protecting the ocean and beaches through programs, campaigns and beach cleanups designed to raise awareness, create solutions and help keep beaches clean and safe.

According to Graham Hamilton, Los Angeles Chapter Coordinator of the Surfrider Foundation, informing the public of the benefits of keeping beaches and oceans clean is one of the most important tasks of the organization.

“Aside from concrete objectives like blocking offshore oil drilling and ridding our ocean, waves and beaches of plastic pollution, the greatest impact we as an organization can have is in helping individuals and communities understand their deep interconnected relationship with the ocean and inspire them to adopt a lifestyle of service that will safeguard our ocean resources for future generations,” Hamilton said.

Only two months into the year, the Surfrider Foundation has already organized six beach cleanups targeting Venice Breakwater and Sunset Point in January and Venice Pier, Rose Avenue Storm Drain, Pico Center Storm Drain and Sunset Point again in February.

Beach cleanups of this magnitude wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of volunteers, according to Graham.

“Volunteers fan out along the beach with reusable gloves, bags, and trash pickers. Once they fill their bag, they return it to the staging area where Surfrider volunteers sort and analyze the contents,” Graham said.

Within two months, 397 volunteers worked together, collecting 1,350 pounds of trash mostly made up of cigarette butts, expanded polystyrene foam, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws. Sunset Point and Venice Pier by far saw the biggest amounts of trash collected with 629.5 pounds and 480.2 pounds respectively.

Efforts by volunteers to keep the beaches clean has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by the community.

“The community is very supportive of our work on and off the beach. Our cleanups serve as a gateway to a much larger conversation around ocean conservation and the opportunities that individuals might have to participate in solutions to the challenges our oceans face, from plastic pollution to offshore oil drilling to watershed restoration and the fight for equitable access to our coasts,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton encourages the public to get involved and help make a difference.

“The best way for people to get involved is to become a member and join their local chapter for an upcoming event. Anyone can get involved in our work. We host monthly chapter meetings, mixers and community enjoyment outings. Our next beach cleanup up will be in Santa Monica on Saturday, Marxh 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. where we’ll also be holding a brief Volunteer Orientation,” Hamilton said.

To learn more, visit: surfrider.org