Roughly 2,500 people collected 25,500 pounds of trash from the Contra Costa County shoreline and creeks during Saturday’s annual coastal cleanup day, said The Watershed Project, the event’s local host.
Shimada Friendship Park was the main cleanup station for Richmond’s 26th annual event, which saw about 400 volunteers collect more than 1,774 pounds of trash and 400 pounds of recyclables.
“When people come together to work on something that impacts us all, it empowers community, it helps people engage with each other more, and it gives young people a chance to really show that they are part of making a difference,” Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said.
The volunteers were mostly youth from Making Waves, AquaTeam, and Youth Enrichment Strategies, which are all youth educational groups. They were joined by youth groups from local churches, Girl Scout troops, and other conservation organizations and neighbors.
“It’s a combination of both cleanup and education,” County Supervisor John Gioia said. “The youth groups that are here get to learn about why it’s important to have environmental stewardship.”
Representatives were on hand with informative pamphlets, posters and displays. Volunteers were encouraged to sign a pledge book promising to help reduce coastal and creek litter.
Every volunteer was given a tally sheet — the same one used for each coastal cleanup event throughout the world – and marked down the trash they collected by category.
The Watershed Project, local officials, and various conservation groups use these forms to assess the severity of the pollution problem in the oceans, creeks and on the shoreline.
“This is how we have a snapshot of what’s going on on our shorelines,” said Juliana Gonzalez, the Healthy Watersheds program manager for The Watershed Project. “The idea is that they collect information that can be used for policies, to make decisions about things that need to change.”
There was even a section on the tally card for the oddest item found. At Shimada Park that designation was given to a message in a bottle with the message written to a little girl that had died.
Volunteers picked up a wide range of trash including tires, syringes, bottles, shoes, cups, pillows, paper, fast food containers, foil, juice boxes, chip bags, and Styrofoam.
Almost every volunteer surveyed had picked up plastic products, either in pieces or whole plastic bags or plastic packaging. This is the reason that many cities, including Richmond, are pushing to ban plastic bags.
“We need our governmental agencies to put limits on this plastic trash,” Assembly Member Nancy Skinner said in a speech at Shimada Park following the cleanup.
All conservation groups present emphasized the importance of drinking tap water out of a reusable bottle instead of buying plastic bottles. Using a reusable water bottle 1,000 times will save about 200 pounds of carbon, said Miriam Gordon, the California director for Clean Water Action.
Another suggestion given to volunteers was to cut straws out of their meal habits, switch to a reusable coffee cup and avoid the plastic wrap around dry cleaning.