Transforming #CoastalCleanupDay

Sept. 2018 | Words and images by by Sara Aminzadeh of California Coastkeeper Alliance

At Klean, we’re working to create solutions to the problem of single-use waste. We hope to inspire change, raise awareness, and reduce the waste that’s already out there. Every product we sell helps support our partner organizations who support the environment and bring change to the plastic pollution problem the world faces today. California Coastkeeper Alliance is one of those organizations who advocate for less pollution and clean waterways.

Coastal Cleanup Day is the world’s largest annual volunteer day to protect our environment. It is a global movement that encompasses 6 million volunteers in 90 countries and across the United States. In California in 2017, more than 66,000 volunteers picked up nearly 840,000 pounds of plastic from their local waterways across the state. This litter, mostly comprised of cigarette butts, food containers, and bottle caps and lids, clogs our waterways, harms wildlife, and contributes to a growing marine debris problem.

California businesses, communities and activists are at the forefront of a global movement to break free from plastic. Every day I seem to learn of a new victory—a new ban or law to reduce single-use plastics, or a business commitment to change practices to use less plastics. Our plastics problem is definitely reaching the broader public.

But even as we work to move (plastic) mountains to change our culture and laws, a steady flow of trash flows to our beaches, bays and rivers. Even relatively clean beaches are covered in trash after every summer and holiday weekend and every rainstorm. Any major rain event in Los Angeles covers the typically clean beach on Santa Monica Bay with a sickening amount of garbage and bacteria.

Garbage on Beach
Cleanup Beach Drain

How can we keep trash out of our waters as we continue work to make single-use plastics illegal, uncool and unprofitable? We already have a law on the books to do it and now just need to tap into the incredible network of businesses (like Klean Kanteen!), activists and partners who banned the plastic bag in California and are now turning their attention to bottle caps and straws.

Many bay and river access points in inland and less affluent areas are continually plagued by litter and debris. I often try to hit the American River for a quick kayak after a day of advocacy in the Capitol and am disheartened to see the public access area heavily littered with diapers, plastic bottles and other trash. In Chico during the annual Great River Cleanup, for example, volunteers typically collect at least 10,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from local streams and rivers. That amount is only expected to go up due to the growing number of homeless encampments in the city’s parks.

Trash pollution persists even in California’s most remote corners. For example, on Santa Cruz Island, located roughly 50 miles offshore from Ventura, and which can only be reached by boat and used with a national parks pass permit, I was disheartened to find large amounts of single-use plastic containers and other garbage.

Ocean of Trash

My organization, California Coastkeeper Alliance, helped develop and adopt the California Trash Policy, which requires cities and counties to stop the flow of trash into rivers, streams, and the ocean, and to meet a goal of no trash present in California waterways by 2030. This Policy became California law in 2015, but so far, most cities and counties haven’t made much progress in implementing it.

The statewide Trash Policy is an opportunity to scale up the success of a similar program in Los Angeles, which is estimated to prevent one million pounds of trash from entering Southern California waters every year, to stop the flow of trash into every California waterway and create a global model for addressing plastic pollution.

In order to comply with the Policy, cities and counties must install new devices to stop trash from flowing into storm drains, so that the plastic bottles, straws, cigarette butts, and other debris are collected and captured before entering a waterway. Some places aren’t aware of these new requirements, others don’t have the expertise to implement the necessary technologies and practices, and some communities won’t follow the new law unless someone is there to ensure they do.

We need YOUR help to make sure that every California city and county is aware of the new requirements and has the information necessary to start implementation. We need to go beyond beach cleanups and plastics bans, and stop all harmful trash before it pollutes our waters. So join us! Please take the Trash-Free by 2030 Pledge and click here to get involved and make a difference in your local community.