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Sixteen hundred volunteers cleared 850 pounds of trash and recyclables from Santa Monica’s beaches on September 19 as part of the 25th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day coordinated in Los Angeles County by Heal the Bay.

Volunteers at the five different beach sites not only got the chance to don gloves and pick up trash, but they also learned about how to take measures in their daily lives to help prevent polluting the ocean.  Matthew King, Heal the Bay’s Director of Communications, told the Mirror the most powerful tool to protect the environment is education.  “The real benefit of volunteering is being able to learn how to keep public spaces, trash gutters and other areas clean” to reduce marine-bound pollution throughout the year.

This year the most unusual items found in Santa Monica were an evening gown which was found just north of the Pier, syringes, two fishing poles, and sex toys.

King was “very heartened to see the increased turnout of volunteers in Santa Monica and Los Angeles County” despite this year’s conflict with the Jewish New Year. This year there were 14,038 volunteers countywide which was a 15 percent increase over last year’s 12,262 participants.  He explained this international event is always on the third Saturday of September and this year more than 70 nations participated as well as all 50 states.  It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest single day of volunteer effort on the planet.”

Heal the Bay’s Director of Communications also mentioned that the increase in volunteers could be attributed to the unique marketing partnerships Heal the Bay has formed with Subaru, Team One Advertising, KCAL/CBS and other pro bono media partners who helped promote the event.

The Countywide cleanup, which included beaches, parks, creeks, highways, and storm drains involved 69 different county sites and yielded 298,686 pounds of trash, 1,726 pounds of recyclables, and cleared 150 tons of trash from regional watersheds.  This year’s haul included efforts coordinated between Heal the Bay and public works agencies in the county at “Code-Red” sites.  These sites were designated because according to King they are “highly urbanized sites that drain huge swaths of Los Angeles County’s water and are swamped with tons of unsightly plastic bags, fast food packaging, and other trash.”

 Some of the most unusual items found countywide were a life size human skull (Redondo Beach), a dead sea lion (Ballona Creek), a severed goat’s head (Malibu Lagoon), a restroom urinal (Dominguez Channel), a dilapidated 10-foot skiff (found on a trail adjacent to Malibu Creek), and a fake mustache (Zuma Beach).

A Heal the Bay press release about the event noted, “urban runoff from more than 200 storm drains flowing out to Santa Monica and San Pedro bays causes the vast majority of local ocean pollution.  By removing tons of debris from beaches and inland neighborhoods, cleanup participants enhanced quality of life, protected marine animals and bolstered the regional economy.”

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