Coastal Cleanup Day continues pollution fight

Hundreds of volunteers marched across California the coastline, including Santa Monica Beach, on Saturday to pick up trash on International Coastal Cleanup Day. More than 11,000 people went to Santa Monica Beach to remove 24,000 pounds of trash by participating in one last summer event that stretched across the California coast, according to Heal The Bay, a nonprofit environmental organization.

For its 23rd year, Heal the Bay has coordinated the Coastal Cleanup Day in Los Angeles County, according to the organization's website.

Coastal Cleanup Day started in 1985 in the wake of an ever-increasing presence of marine debris along California coastlines. Since then, over 800,000 people have banded together to dispose of more than 14 million pounds of trash on California beaches.

Santa Monica College participants occupied the beach near Bay Street, formerly known as The Inkwell. Crowds of people made their way to the site, including many SMC clubs and organizations.

Among the groups were Plastic Free SMC, EcoAction Club, The Center for Environmental and Urban Studies.

"This is my first time participating in something like this," said Elyzabeth Arellano, who attended with SMC's Phi Theta Kappa. "I wasn't really interested in sustainability in high school because they don't really talk about it, but here in college, you learn more about it."

Matt Bouffard, an environmental science major at SMC, gave a safety talk before the event, instructing participants to stay away from sharp, hazardous materials and to stay in groups.

With a bucket and gloves in hand, all volunteers were instructed to mark a data card documenting every bit of trash collected. At the end of the event, prizes were awarded for categories such as, "Weirdest Piece of Trash."

"The smallest pieces of trash are the most dangerous," said Bouffard. "Marine life eat these small items, think they're full, and ultimately starve to death."

It seemed that the bulk of the trash found consisted of small items. Up and down the Crescent Bay Park, paper trash, plastic items, glass, bottle caps and countless cigarette butts were found.

On one side of the Santa Monica Pier, cheers were heard as volunteers gathered in crowds to welcome back scuba divers, who went for a pier dive to collect trash beneath the surface of the ocean. As one group of divers made their way back to dry land, another was ready to dive in again.

Collecting trash from beneath the surface of the ocean was one of the 50 cleanup sites in LA County, according to Heal the Bay's website.

SMC student and Heal the Bay intern at the Santa Monica Pier aquarium, Ashley Navas, was pleased with the turn out of the coastal clean up event.

"I've always loved the aquarium and I've always loved animals," said Navas who has visited the aquarium since she was five years old. "The turn out is exactly how I expected."

The event came to an end around noon, and with buckets of trash in their hands, volunteers made their way to a booth with a pink flag where their trash would be weighed and taken away by Heal the Bay.