Astrid and Bruno Barros from San Pablo spent last Saturday looking for plastic bottles, paper cups and cigarette butts along the shoreline of Richmond’s Shimada Friendship park.
“You never know what piece of garbage you may find next,” said Astrid. It might be bottle caps that could otherwise end up in the stomachs of fish and birds, syringes that need to be handled by paramedics for safety reasons, shotgun shells from nearby gun clubs—or even a condom, as Bruno noted with a smirk.
The couple joined 800,000 people around the globe, including 70,000 in California and about 500 in Richmond, in the worldwide 2016 Coastal Cleanup Day, an annual event that encourages volunteers to protect the shores from trash.
“We hike from Point Isabel Dog Park to this place two or three times a week,” Astrid Barros said. “We care enough to help make the park clean.”
Vladimir Zubarev and Irina Ankudinova from Saint Petersburg, Russia said they feel the same way. Six years ago they bought a Marina Bay condo with a stunning view, which at times is marred by piles of garbage along the shore.
“It gets really bad after the storms,” Zubarev said.
Winds and tides bring trash dumped from boats and yachts, but most of the trash along the shore gets washed out from inland, according to Richmond-based environmental group The Watershed Project, which co-organized the city’s Coastal Cleanup Day event, along with the City of Richmond and District I Supervisor John M. Gioia’s office.
Juliana Gonzales, director of The Watershed Project, said that because East Bay cities don’t have comprehensive systems to clean up storm water, this water drains directly to the Bay along with all of the trash it picks up along the way. “So we have giant swirls of plastic from all these cities that end up here,” she said.
Cleanup days are one way to keep trash from the shores; preventing it from ending up there in the first place is another way.
“More than cleaning up, we want to find long term-solutions,” said Gonzales, making reference to Richmond’s 2013 Single-Use Bag Ordinance, which prohibits the distribution of plastic bags in the city’s retail stores. Similar bans are in place in over 100 California cities, including Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.
Today, plastic bags make up just one percent of all trash collected on coastal cleanup days in Richmond, compared to 20 percent a few years ago, Gonzales said. This November, Californians will vote on proposition 67, which—if passed—would ban single-use plastic bags in large grocery stores and pharmacies statewide.
More than 2,000 pounds of trash were collected by people on foot, bikes and kayaks in Shimada Friendship Park, Wildcat and Baxter Creeks, the Richmond Greenway, Point Isabel and Point Pinole on Saturday.
Said volunteer John Dye: “It’s an opportunity for the park-goers to team up and make the beaches accessible and beautiful.”