Santa Monicans scour beach for trash


Mide Ogundipe, 23, a member of Sustainable Works, was busy picking up remnants of trash on the shore outside of the hotel Casa Del Mar. On the shore of a polluted pond, created from the runoff of the Pico-Kenter outfall, Ogundipe stood among scraps of plastic, Styrofoam, cigarette butts, and paper.

"I think people desperately need to be more aware of what's going on with the Earth. People are more interested in Snooki and that kind of stuff than about the environment," said Ogundipe. "Seeing stuff like this is depressing—this clutter and trash shouldn't be here."

Sixty volunteers from Santa Monica College and the surrounding areas volunteered on April 22 to help clean a long stretch of beach in Santa Monica. Armed with latex gloves and trash bags, the volunteers broke off into groups of three and five to comb the stretch of shore for the detritus left behind by tourists and locals.

Svetlana Pravina, 18, Treasurer of the Eco Action Club, helped to organize the day's event with Heal The Bay, a non-profit environmental group that works to restore the Santa Monica Bay.  For most of the 60 volunteers, it would be their first time cleaning a beach; and for both first timers and hardened veterans of the cause, the yield produced astonishing results.

Sixty to 80 percent of marine debris is plastic, Tom Fleming, Web Producer for Heal The Bay, explained to the small phalanx of environmental activists. He explained how most of the trash found on the beaches of Santa Monica is brought from people, rainstorms, and storm drains leading to the outfalls that regurgitate into the bay.

Addressing the crowd from a lifeguard hut, Fleming also explained how it is especially important to avoid the water from storm drains, especially if they are stagnant, "because they're filled with all kinds of bad stuff: enterococcus and coliform bacteria are tested in the outlet's waters—you definitely don't want to take a dip in that water," said Fleming.

Fanning out, the small teams busily probed the sand for micro trash—small scraps of refuse too small to normally notice. Data cards, or lists of common items found on the beach, were distributed to each team, so that they could meticulously register the contents within their trash bags. The majority of their findings were cigarette buts, small strips of plastic, glass, and paper.

"I had no idea how much micro trash there was; literally tons of small bits of trash," said Alden Anderson, a volunteer. "It feels good to help clean up."

"I hope people are surprised by the amount of garbage they see today," said Justine Rembac, A.S. Director of Sustainability and a member of the Eco Action Club. Rembac, recalling the moment when she became inspired to take up environmental causes, spoke about an environmental political science class under Professor Amber Katherine. "It's just one of those classes that truly motivated and inspired me to get involved."

"I can't make anyone care," said Rembac. "I can only give them the opportunity to."