Earth week beach clean-up

Under the blue sky and cool breeze coming from the Pacific, Santa Monica College students volunteered their services at Santa Monica Beach Tower 18 to help reduce debris and keep beaches clean.

Along the sand, students walked filling bags with trash, while some used their hands to pick up plastic debris.

"A primary component of beach cleaning is education and raising awareness," said Tom Fleming, account executive for the business greening program at SMC's Sustainable Works.

"Each week we have to implement three solutions to the common problems, such as wasting water or using too much energy," said Ashley Espinoza, a new member of the Sustainable Works program.

Fleming explained that beach cleaning events can help eliminate debris washing up on the shore. Much of that debris is plastic, which is harmful to marine life because plastic is not biodegradable, meaning that it only breaks into smaller pieces, she said.

"Plastic bags in the water look like jelly fish to sea turtles, and they would ingest those and die," Fleming said.

Not only does plastic debris affect marine life, but also birds on some Hawaiian islands. Fleming said that, on some of the far Hawaiian islands that are not populated, scientists are finding birds that are dying because they are eating plastic particles such as debris from cigarette lighters, toothbrushes and little plastic toys.

"Anything we do inland has an impact on the environment," said Fleming.

In 2010, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's website.

"The concept behind Zero Waste is to look at waste not as waste, but as resources that can be reused, recycled and composted," said Fleming.

Asha McClendonComment