According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), billions of pounds of pollutants are dumped into the ocean every year. Most of these pollutants are a product of irresponsible human waste disposal practices along coastlines or even far inland, and the consequences have proven to be devastating for marine life. The garbage often collects in large patches of the ocean literally called “garbage patches,” that form especially often from microplastics or sections of large fishing equipment, and such trash gets dumped on beaches all over the world. Even worse, it remains in the ocean where more than 100,000 animals fatally ingest or tangle themselves in the waste annually. The effects of oceanic pollution aren’t limited to just marine life, though; it affects us as well. It’s estimated that contaminated water infects up to 3.5 million people yearly because of exposure to toxic fertilizers, animal and human waste, or sewage—and these are only the immediate consequences.
On October 29th, 2022, co-presidents of Orange Lutheran’s Beach Cleanup Club, Bella Garza and Lauren Rowland, and I met up at Seal Beach on a chilly Saturday morning. Under the guidance of the Surfrider Foundation, we began the tedious work of collecting small bits of trash that we found in the sand. We quickly moved to the rocks that lined the side of the beach—whether it was called a jetty, a groin, or a breakwater I still don’t know. Regardless, when we began poking around the crevasses within the rocks, we were astounded at the amount of trash packed within each of the relatively small gaps. We weren’t exactly well equipped, either: Bella and I astutely decided to wear sandals, and, at some point, we decided to ‘borrow’ reachers from (inactive) participants around us. We found glass, clothes that looked to be years old, suspicious plastic bottles, an absurd amount of Styrofoam (which Lauren noted takes hundreds of years to decompose in the environment, courtesy of Parkinsons’ Marine Biology class), and even a car tire. Though we worked for several hours, we still only cleaned a few square feet worth of gaps in the rock, but even the small ground that we covered amounted to 11.1 lbs. worth of trash.
It may seem obvious and perhaps overstated, but picking up after yourself or others and doing your best to hold organizations who use environmentally negligent practices responsible are vital for the welfare of both ourselves and our environment. Thanks to the combined efforts of Orange Lutheran’s Beach Cleanup Club and the Surfrider Foundation, I was able to do just that. And if you’d like to contribute in your own small way, I recommend both as resources to start.
Photo Credit: Google