More than 14,000 Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers in Los Angeles County removed a record 150 tons of trash from regional watersheds last weekend, according to environmental watchdog Heal the Bay, which organized the effort.
Some 14,038 community members — also an all-time high number — scoured beaches, parks, alleys, creeks, highways and stormdrains for three hours at 69 sites throughout the county. City crews, families, local businesses, faith-based organizations, schools and youth sports teams removed 300,413 pounds of debris and recyclables.
This year’s haul marked a 65 percent increase from last year’s total of 181,000 pounds. The increased total is due to more aggressive public works efforts coordinated in concert with Heal the Bay to clear bulky, heavy items from so-called “Code Red” sites. The inaugural program designated five sites in or near heavily urbanized, debris-choked waterways, officials with Heal the Bay said.
Heal the Bay’s cleanup campaigns have captured a cumulative 1.17 million pounds of trash since 1990. Cigarette butts and Styrofoam fragments are the most frequently found items at cleanups.
Sites covered the entire county, from Tujunga to Long Beach, Compton to Malibu. SCUBA dive teams canvassed the Santa Monica and Redondo Beach piers, while a flotilla of kayakers removed trash from Marina del Rey.
This year’s worldwide cleanup event unavoidably conflicted with the Rosh Hashanah holidays, nonetheless volunteer totals rose nearly 15 percent from last year’s 12,262 participants.
Among the most unusual items found this year was a lifesize human skull model that divers in Redondo Beach first assumed marked actual human remains. Local police were called to examine the object, which was found on the seafloor and wrapped in plastic. Authorities quickly cordoned off the area and brought forensics teams to examine the plastic skull, whose origins remain a mystery.
Other noteworthy items found this year: a dead sea lion (Ballona Creek), a severed goat’s head (Malibu Lagoon), a restroom urinal (Dominguez Channel), a dilapidated 10-foot skiff (trail adjacent to Malibu Creek), and a fake mustache (Zuma Beach).
“Coastal Cleanup Day is a remarkable day of action” said Karin Hall, executive director of Heal the Bay. “Volunteers removed a record amount of trash, but the biggest benefit of the day is raising so much awareness about the everyday steps people can take to reduce marine-bound pollution throughout the year.”
Urban runoff from more than 200 storm drains flowing out to Santa Monica and San Pedro bays causes the vast majority of local ocean pollution. By removing tons of debris from beaches and inland neighborhoods, cleanup participants enhanced quality of life, protected marine animals and bolstered the regional economy.