Local beaches get a scrubbing
Rather than spending their Saturday morning sleeping in, 162 locals gathered at East Beach to clean it up.
Captained by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, this cleanup was one of many in the 35th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, a statewide volunteer effort headed by the California Coastal Commission and involving 1,000 sites in 55 counties.
While the mile-long stretch of East Beach in many volunteers’ opinions was already relatively clean, the group picked up 205.85 pounds of trash, according to Sea Center volunteer and interpretation manager Sam Macks.
Among the usual cigarette butts, plastic pieces and Styrofoam, there were some very unusual items found.
One of the biggest and most surprising was a black car bumper found by 16-year-old Santiago Bailey and his 12-year-old brother, Joaqin Bailey. The boys told the News-Press that they had found the car piece when they helped clear out a hoarder’s nest. DVDs, food wrappers, beer bottles, and medicine bottles were among other items they cleared from the site, which the older brother said was probably home to a transient at one point.
“It just looked like somebody had been living there,” he said.
Other evidence of homeless people living near the beach included dirty clothing. Several volunteers found pants and shoes, but some decided to leave them in case the transient who owned them came back.
Steve Keller, Sea Center school and teacher services coordinator, was picking up trash. He teaches elementary school children at East Beach and wanted to make sure his “classroom” was clean.
He said clothing is commonly found during beach cleanups.
“I imagine that it’s possibly from the transient population, but unsure. But we find all sorts of weird garments of clothing,” he said.
The volunteers picked up a large collection of cigarette butts, which Ms. Macks said remain among the most common items found during beach cleanups.
“The top 10 most common things that people find on the beaches are the same things that were found 20 years ago so it’s like cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, pieces of foam, things like that,” she said.
As the volunteers combed the beach they carried tally sheets listing different categories, which they marked accordingly with each item they picked up.
Ms. Macks said the purpose of tallying the collected garbage is to understand what types of trash make their way onto the beaches and from that information influence public policy preventing those kinds of litter.
Citing the recent straw ban as an example, she said, “Part of that data that went into that legislation was collected from California Coastal Cleanup Day.”
According to a news release, with 75 percent of the cleanup sites reporting in, 251 tons of trash were picked up Saturday during California Coastal Cleanup Day, with 33,611 pounds of that recyclable.
Despite all of the garbage that was cleaned from the beach, many volunteers said they thought it looked cleaner than usual.
East Beach lifeguard and Santa Barbara High School student Joshua Manset, 18, said he consistently finds four or five pieces of trash on his way to the lifeguard tower when working. In his opinion, the beach had below average litter that day, and even less as the cleanup neared its end.
“If I was to walk out there right now, I don’t feel like I’d find much, but after time things accumulate and I feel like this is something we have to do consistently,” he said.