Beach clean-ups are a means of improving our beaches while raising public awareness about the threats of pollution to the ocean, but are they really an effective way of decreasing the amount of litter on the beach?
According to Cristina Robinson, an education coordinator at OC Coastkeeper, beach clean-ups are an effective and important form of preventing the debris from entering the ocean. Regardless of how large or small the clean-ups may be, every action matters because those small actions accumulate over time and, through a large population of people, act as a major impact to benefit the ocean.
Beyond preserving our beaches and helping protect marine life, beach clean-ups are a fun way to engage with the community by meeting new people with common interests. By cleaning up the beach, people can feel good by helping the community, the environment, and themselves. Since pollution can find its way into the diet of marine animals, the consumption of seafood can negatively affect our health over time. To participate in a beach clean-up, you can come together with friends and/or family or sign up for events with local conservation organizations like OC Coastkeeper and OC Habitats. The debris that is picked up from beach clean-ups is typically weighed and entered into the Clean Swell App, which is a form of citizen science to provide researchers and policy-makers information to develop solutions to help the ocean.
Aside from cleaning up the beach, another method of decreasing litter found on the beaches is prevention. Robinson believes that important actions, such as enforcing litter laws, need to be taken on a statewide level. For example, as a part of the Trash-Free Water Policy by 2030, an increase in grate covers need to be added to help prevent and reduce trash from entering our drainage system. On a personal level, OC Habitats encourages the reduction of single-use items and instead using reusable or biodegradable items, going to refill stores, and educating yourselves on personal sustainability.
Regardless of the amount of litter that is cleaned, OC Habitats and Robinson believe that if just one animal is saved by preventing entanglement, suffocation, and/or death through ingestion, then beach clean-ups have proven their worth.