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Grab your most comfy pair of shoes and “BYO” – as in bring your own buckets, reusable bags, and gloves to pick up trash – Heal the Bay needs your help.

The Santa Monica-based environmental group is asking Southland residents to step up for “the world’s biggest single-day volunteer event” – the 32nd annual Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. until noon. It has partnered with the California Coastal Commission for this global international event led by the Ocean Conservancy.

Thousands who truly care about the environment in Los Angeles County are expected to aid in the removal of harmful trash and debris from more than 50 coastal and inland sites. This is no small fete as the area needing attention spans almost 100 square miles!
According to Matthew King, communications director for Heal the Bay, Coastal Cleanup Day is indeed an important Southland event.
“Clean rivers, creeks, coastal waters are very important resources for Southern California. Not only are they wonderful assets for fun and recreation, they are vital to our economy.  Revenues from tourism, real estate, and the seafood industry pump money into the L.A. region.  Trash and pollution also are dangerous to our communities and the people, and animal life that use our waterways and swim in the ocean,” he said.

Get Rid of the Danger

When you think about it, trash on the beach — think needles, broken glass, and pieces of metal —are all hazards that we don’t want our families to encounter at the beach, King added.
“Many of the marine animals mistake plastic, Styrofoam, and other debris for food. They accidentally ingest them, or get tangled in everything from fishing line to shopping bags. Each year, over 100,000 marine mammals die from entanglement or ingestion of our trash,” he said.
This is not the first time Heal the Bay has made such a commitment, it’s been active in events such as Coastal Cleanup Day since 1990 to canvass beaches, parks, creeks, lakes, highways, and alleys to remove ocean-bound trash and beautify neighborhoods.
And get this, Coastal Cleanup Day has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest garbage collection” ever organized.

“In nearly 25 years of hosting cleanups, we’ve collected more than 2 million pounds of ocean-bound debris. That’s the weight of two, fully-loaded 747 passenger jets. More than 200,000 people have been part of this day, which has been listed as the single largest one-day volunteer event on the planet,” he said.

Similar events take place around the world – more than 90 nations participated in last year’s Coastal Cleanup Day, which is held the third Saturday of each September.


Photo Courtesy of Heal the Bay

You Don’t Need Skills

Everyone is welcome as no special qualifications are needed, so bring the family.
“We seek volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. No special skills are needed. We see families, businesses, sports clubs, faith based groups, college clubs, etc. They all enjoy rolling up their sleeves and having a direct impact on their neighborhoods and local beaches. It feels good to protect what you love. The beach belongs to all of us and we all have a duty to protect it.

“One person can definitely make a difference. Coastal Cleanup Day is about the power you have as an individual to take action instead of just sitting at home,” King continued.  “In fact, Coastal Cleanup Day is a perfect example of how the efforts of one person can help result in over 100,000 pounds of trash being picked up in just 3 hours.

“People get a sense of accomplishment because they can see the progress they’re making—their stretch of beach will be spotless by the end of the morning.  And you can also have a huge impact by spreading the word and getting your friends and family involved.”

Perfectly Planned- Getting involved is as easy as 1-2-3.

The event is well coordinated and volunteers will be told and shown exactly what needs to be done, King said.

“At the beach, volunteers check in, get a safety talk, and pick up their cleanup supplies.  They’re sent out in teams of three or four, which makes it a great opportunity to grab a couple of your friends and head down to the beach,” he said.

At inland sites, the same structure is followed. The main difference at inland sites is the location, of course, and also some sites, such as the Code Red ones, require being willing to get a little dirty and working with larger items and higher volumes of trash.

As people collect trash, they keep track of what they find on a data card.  The data cards are turned in at the end of the cleanup, so that the information can be analyzed.

The trash is then put into waste receptacles at the beach, some of which are provided especially for Coastal Cleanup Day.  Recyclables are taken to the nearest recycling facility.

Organizers have also added a new twist to this year’s event, allowing volunteers to search for “buried treasure” as they remove debris. Lucky treasure hunters will find valuable gift certificates hidden in the sand and underbrush at five of coastal and inland sites.
In terms of the “Code Red” locations these need special attention this year: Medea Creek in Agoura Hills, the Ballona Wetlands, and Compton Creek.  These urban sites drain runoff from huge swaths of Los Angeles County and are overwhelmed by such litter as plastic bags and fast-food packaging.

In addition to the Code Red sites, about 50 other sites have been confirmed this year, including more than 15 inland locations. SCUBA dive sites will include Malibu Pier, Redondo Beach, Dockweiler State Beach and the Santa Monica Pier.

“We’re approaching the issue from both sides.  While we are cleaning up the trash that can harm people and animals right now, we are also preventing future problems by raising people’s awareness.  In addition, their efforts go far beyond a day at the beach because the data collected about the quantity and type of debris found can act as evidence when important environmental legislation is being created,” King said.

Thousands of volunteers are hard at work on Santa Monica Beach for the Heal The Bay Coastal Cleanup Day on September 19, 2015. (Dotan Saguy)

Thousands of volunteers are hard at work on Santa Monica Beach for the Heal The Bay Coastal Cleanup Day on September 19, 2015. (Dotan Saguy)

A Big Difference

If you didn’t think events such as these cleanups make a difference, guess again.

“Our local beaches and oceans are in much better shape than they were 30 years ago when pollution led to dead zones in the Bay and marine mammals had fin rot and tumors. But we still have much work to do,” King said. “But progress requires commitment and awareness from all Angelenos – that’s where Coastal Cleanup Day comes in.”
Before you dig out the needed items, remember that everyone must sign a liability waiver. Anyone under 18 must have a liability waiver signed by a parent or guardian. To sign up, please visit

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