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My first “Real” beach clean up with the Surfrider Foundation

November 29th, 2009

Well, today my wife and I donated a couple hours of our day to the Huntington Beach/Seal Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation for a beach clean-up. The beach clean-up started at 8am and ended at 12 noon down at Huntington St. in front of the Hilton. My wife and I woke up around 8 and headed over to the coffee shop for a Mocha and a bagel to go. As we drove down 17th St. to PCH we wondered what it was going to be like. When we hit PCH we saw that the waves were a solid 8 ft. and stormy. It looked chilly outside but luckily there were some blue skies. We drove all the way down to Beach Blvd. and looped our way back to tower 11 where Barbara, from Surfrider, was signing people up at her tent. We signed our names, put on some thin latex gloves, and Barbara gave us two blue Surfrider cloth bags and said, “Have fun!”

When we pulled up it was already 8:45am and we could see at least 30 people walking around from tower 12 to tower 7. My first thought was, “Wow, maybe we came too late because there won’t be any more trash to pick up in this area. I thought maybe we would have to drive somewhere down the beach to find some trash… well boy was I wrong! Jennifer and I started walking right out behind the Surfrider tent where everyone elses footsteps had taken them and we just started walking north slowly. Bing! I found a cigarette butt within 30 seconds. Bing, I found a plastic bottle cap. The bings went on in my head for 1.5 hrs. as we walked toward the pier. When I finally reached the water’s edge I looked closely at these small piles of seaweed. I saw little glimpes of blue, yellow, red, and more bright colors. I picked up a pile of seaweed and shook it out. Wow!!! At least 5-10 pieces of trash were either stuck inside of the seaweed or fell out of it. The seaweed looked like it was dying because it was all very limp. By this time my buddy Del and Darren had showed up to help. Darren went south with his wife Lana and Del met up with me and Jennifer at tower 9. I pointed out my findings to them and we walked a few lifeguard towers digging through all the seaweed clumps and just shooting the sh#t about stuff. I mentioned to them about how I read that plastic bottles last 100 years before they can break down. And we also talked about how crazy the news is about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also called the North Pacific Gyre) which is a huge pile of floating plastic trash that’s supposed to be bigger than the size of Texas located between California and Hawaii.

So at the 1 & 1/2 hr. mark all of our backs and legs started feeling the effects of squatting down every 20 seconds to pickup trash. I found some of the most random pieces of trash like a Gi Joe figure, a plastic xmas tree branch, a lighter, drinking straws, candy wrappers, and hundreds of pieces of broken plastic. I was thinking while picking up all this stuff that I should document it somehow. I dont know why but I just felt like maybe if I pointed out what just my wife and I had picked up in just under 2 hrs. between 4 lifeguard towers that maybe it would spark some ideas for other people to want to get involved as well. So I brought all the trash home that the two of us had gathered, sorted it out, and roughly counted it.

This is what I found:

42 Plastic Sports Drink Caps and 11 Beer Caps

29 Pieces of drinking straws

55 stinky cigarette butts and 8 of the hard plastic ones

24 pieces of broken glass

9 rusty nails

9 Bread plastic clips/fasteners

18 pieces of balloon/string/plastic Happy B-Day packaging

1 birthday candle

2 wire hangers

1 piece of ceramic tile

1 large lottery ticket

1 gi joe figure

11 nurdles

5 pieces/chunks of tar

411 pieces of random broken plastic

93 pieces of styrofoam

and 1 large ziplock bag full of candy wrappers (EST. 60 pieces)

Estimated Total pieces of trash picked up: 751

751 pieces of trash? Really??? I guess I would have never known how much we really picked up on this day unless I had counted it all up. The crazy thing is the beach looked totally clean from the tractors that groom it every morning. The one thing we need to realize is that most of this trash is from the runoff of our own neighborhood gutters. Yep, you heard it right! You see those signs that say “Drains to Ocean” right? Well, guess what the city does a few days before each drain? They get out their tractors and dig out big trenches from 4-5 large drainage pipes that come from the downtown streets. I think the drainage ditches are located at: 1st St., 6th St., 12th St., 17th St., and Goldenwest St. but not 100% sure. These large drainage pipes are not filtered at all, so any/all trash that is sitting in a gutter in your neighborhood will be washed straight into the ocean during a big rain. Something to think about like maybe we should clean up our gutters before it rains…

Well it was a great experience for Jennifer and me to do this beach cleanup. At first she didn’t really want to do it but on the way home she asked when the next one was going to be held cause she was so inspired by it.

If you want to get involved with the Surfrider Foundation, visit http://www.surfrider.org or http://hsbsurfrider.org (HB/Seal Chapter)
All the people who work (Volunteer) for Surfrider are just like you and me. Normal people/surfers that want to help keep our beaches clean.

Oh, and I think my plan is to create some type of surf art out of all this trash we picked up today. Check back later this month and I will have created something…

Below are the photos of all the trash we picked up and sorted.

Peace,

Seth Matson

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