ELS beach clean-up — Discovering ‘trash confetti’

By Breanna Hayes

On a beautiful January morning with clear skies and the promise of 80 degrees, CWSL’s Environmental Law Society (ELS) held a philanthropy event to clean up Pacific Beach and Crystal Pier. The ELS event Jan. 26 was a great success and drew many non-member participants from CWSL.

Torrey Pines Beach. Photo: Breanna Hayes

The overall Beach Cleanup was hosted by San Diego Coastkeeper, a non-profit organization working tirelessly to protect and restore “swimmable, fishable and drinkable waters in San Diego County.” San Diego Coastkeeper collects data on the clean-ups, including the combined weight of trash debris removed — in 2018, this amounted to a whopping 11,530 pounds!

Jacqueline Jimenez, a 1L who attended the ELS clean-up, said, “The beach clean-up was a fun way to feel I was making a difference. San Diego is a very beautiful city with beautiful beaches. I didn’t expect there to be so much trash. It was mostly plastic and Styrofoam that had diminished to very small pieces. It made me view the beach and the ocean very differently, where I am now more self-conscious of what I bring to the beach after seeing how much we leave behind. I was happy to be able to help keep beaches of San Diego beautiful for us and future generations to enjoy.”

A day at the beach always seems to wash away your worries. At a closer glance, however, you will find an infinite number of tiny, finger nail-sized pieces of trash-confetti along its edges. Bits of jagged plastic, individual Styrofoam popcorns, and flattened fragments of what were once Styrofoam cups flood the shoreline. When I found a glow stick, it was a joyous moment. Glow sticks, as it turns out, are among the most “usual-unusual” trash items collected along the coast. San Diego Coastkeeper attributes this abundance to fishing operations that use glow sticks to attract fish.

In all honesty, I had no real idea what I was signing up for. The two hours of cleaning were tedious, sifting through sea grass and sand to separate the never-decomposable from the biological. Thankfully, there is San Diego Coastkeeper.

San Diego Coastkeeper partners with Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter to hold weekly beach clean-ups at rotating locations. If you are interested in a little philanthropy, check out their beach clean-up calendar to learn where you can get in on the action. There are sign-in locations that will give you gloves, bags or buckets, and a nod that makes you feel your good-Samaritan act is acknowledged.

Kourosh Karimi-cherkandi, treasurer of ELS at CWSL, also attended the beach cleanup and urges “there’s a lot more work to be done.”  If you are interested in learning about some ways you can help conserve water usage at home while “understanding your water footprint,” visit San Diego Coastkeeper’s informational page. h

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