By Explore Ecology
Congratulations, Santa Barbara County! You really cleaned up this year at Coastal Cleanup Day. Last Saturday, 1,224 volunteers participated in Coastal Cleanup Day at 31 sites throughout the County. Initial results are still coming in, but so far early reports indicate an impressive day of action: 5,625 pounds of trash and recyclables were collected, with participants covering an estimated 51 miles, spanning from Rincon to Jalama.
With just 50% of cleanup sites reporting, the statewide count shows that over 150,000 pounds of trash was removed by 27,000 volunteers. Californians gathered at beaches, shorelines, and inland waterways, cleaning up in virtually all of California’s 58 counties.
Organized by Explore Ecology in partnership with the County of Santa Barbara Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division, this event is part of a global movement to protect our oceans and shorelines.
Jill Cloutier, Public Relations Director for Explore Ecology says, “Coastal Cleanup Day 2023 was a huge success! It’s impressive what volunteers can accomplish in three hours at our local beaches, parks, and creeks. Community members of all ages came together for the coast and the result is that our beaches are not only cleaner, but 2.81 tons of litter won’t be flowing into the ocean. That’s not only a win for us, but also for wildlife. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers. We hope to see you next year!”
With only a few sites reporting the specific types of litter found, the top two items are plastic pieces and cigarette butts, underscoring the persistent issue of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Among the more unusual discoveries in Santa Barbara County were a car wash mop, a Barbie shoe, and a Teddy Bear.
Veronica Lee, Coastal Cleanup Day Coordinator for Explore Ecology, says, “We are so proud of how much trash our community kept off the beach this weekend! Thank you to everyone for showing up for the health of our beaches!”
Coastal Cleanup Day would not happen without the assistance and dedication of Site Captains who volunteer their time, help attendees at their sites, count all of the litter picked up, and report it to Explore Ecology. They are essential to the event running smoothly, whether they’ve been leading a cleanup for 20 years or if this was their first Coastal Cleanup Day.
In its 39th year, Coastal Cleanup Day is the largest annual volunteer event in California, with volunteers cleaning up over 700 sites statewide. This event is part of the International Coastal Cleanup, organized by the Ocean Conservancy, and serves as a vital data source for understanding and combating marine debris.
Based on historical data, 75% of the debris removed consists of plastic, a material that poses a significant environmental threat. Plastic debris can kill wildlife, leach toxic chemicals into the environment, and even introduce them into the food chain. The data has also shown that up to 80% of the trash on the California coast originates on land, so volunteers across the state helped prevent enormous amounts of trash from ever reaching the ocean, no matter where they participated, emphasizing the importance of prevention and proper waste disposal.
Volunteers kept track of all the items they removed as part of one of the world’s largest and longest-running community science projects. This data, and the trends it displays over the many years in which it has been collected, has revealed a great deal about the extent and nature of the marine debris problem over time, and has provided California with crucial information needed to address the sources of the problem.
“For generations, Californians have demonstrated their love and dedication to our coast during Coastal Cleanup Day,” said the Coastal Commission’s Executive Director Dr. Kate Huckelbridge. “The Coastal Commission is incredibly proud to provide an outlet for all Californians to express that dedication each year. We see how devoting only a few hours on a Saturday in September translates into a year-round commitment to the protection and preservation of our coast. We are grateful to all who share in this goal!”
For volunteers who don’t want to wait until next year to participate in a beach cleanup, Explore Ecology holds monthly beach cleanups, on the 2nd Sunday of every month from 10:00 pm to 12:00 pm at Arroyo Burro Beach.
Participants are encouraged to complete the Coastal Cleanup Day Volunteer Survey and be entered in a drawing for prizes.
Stay tuned for details on Coastal Cleanup Day 2024 on Explore Ecology’s website: ExploreEcology.org/Coastal-Cleanup-Day/.
Statewide, Coastal Cleanup Day is presented by the California Coastal Commission. In Santa Barbara County, the event is organized by Explore Ecology and their partner County of Santa Barbara Resource Recovery and Waste Management. The Cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Solvang offer support as well as many non-profits, businesses, and generous individuals.
About Explore Ecology: Explore Ecology is an environmental education and arts nonprofit that educates over 38,000 children a year, inspiring them to engage with the natural world, think critically, and experience the value of environmental stewardship. Explore Ecology programs include the Art From Scrap Creative Reuse Store, Watershed Resource Center, Environmental Education, and the School Gardens Program. For more information, visit ExploreEcology.org.