Apartment Garden Blues (Blog): California's 29th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day

Crystal Cove State Beach Coastal Cleanup 2013

On Saturday, September 21, 2013, I got up early and drove down to Crystal Cove State Beach in Newport Beach, Calif., to volunteer with a friend of mine in California's 29th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day. Every year thousands of Californians like myself travel to the coast and to their local watersheds to pick up garbage. Between 60 and 80 percent of the debris found on California beaches actually comes from land-based sources, traveling through storm drains, creeks or rivers down to the beach and into the ocean. This year 51,543 volunteers picked up trash at more than 850 different sites, making it the state's largest volunteer event. With 70 percent of the cleanup sites reporting, 471, 218 pounds of trash and 30,530 pounds of recyclable materials, meaning 251 tons was picked up this morning.

Coastal Cleanup Aliso CreekAt 9 a.m. we checked in with a National Park Ranger, who offered volunteers gloves, bags and a form to report the items found (volunteers were asked to reduce the environmental footprint of the cleanup by bringing their own gloves and bags or reusable buckets - this resulted in almost 50,000 fewer trash bags than the 2011 event). The ranger said the beach was regularly cleaned by park rangers, so we would have to look closely to find trash. We spent three hours scouring the beach, mostly through seaweed and in the bushes. What I found most of was tiny bits of Styrofoam. Styrofoam camouflages well on the beach, often looking like seashell bits unless you are only about a foot away from it. We also found rope, a can, a cookie wrapper, a little green army man, a pen and a Christmas light. Both our bags weighed in at less than a pound. While I was disappointed at all the Styrofoam, we are lucky that Crystal Cove is so clean. It is a beautiful beach that is well-maintained.

California Coastal Cleanup Day 2013At about 11:45 a.m., the bags of trash collected were weighed and hauled away in a truck, and volunteers turned in their forms, which were then tallied.

Whole Foods Market had a "Most Unusual Item" contest, and winners received a $100 gift certificate. At the coast, a volunteer found a stereo speaker with a live octopus inside (the octopus was returned to the ocean), and inland a volunteer found a baby stroller with a "demon head" attached to it. Chipotle Mexican Grill also offered burritos for a year to one lucky winner who entered a photo of their trash (unusual or not) on Instagram.

Overall 2013 Coastal Cleanup Day was a complete success! I'm definitely going to participate again next year!


Alexandra is a professional writer from Southern California who grows vegetables, herbs, lots of aloe vera and one giant Boston fern in her balcony garden. She also grows dracaena, pothos and English ivy indoors. She loves traveling and birdwatching in addition to gardening.

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