Coastal Cleanup Day Scores Tons of Trash

Volunteers at Will Rogers State Beach collected a small mountain of trash. Photo by Nicola Buck, Heal the Bay

The final numbers for the 29th annual Coastal Cleanup Day are in. On September 15, an estimated 53,073 volunteers gathered at creeks, waterways, estuaries, lagoons, and beaches all over the state. Those volunteers picked up 698,931 pounds of trash and an additional 35,674 pounds of recyclable materials, for a total of 734,606 pounds or 367 tons, all of it in just three hours. In Los Angeles County, 13,342 volunteers collected a record 40,066 pounds of trash.

Cigarette butts continue to be the most frequently encountered trash item: 480,961 were reported, statewide. Volunteers collected 457,357 pieces of plastic, 254,895 food wrappers, 204,198 foam pieces, and 141,799 bottle caps.

Straws and stirrers made up less than three percent of the debris (66,853). Activists hope to see that number decrease following approval of a new bill that requires patrons to ask for a straw if they wish to use one at full service restaurants.

Three wedding bands, two chainsaws, and a Coke can from 1963 were among the stranger finds. Three live mice in a glass bottle were reportedly retrieved from Manhattan Beach. “Don’t worry, we rescued them!” a tweet from local event organizer Heal the Bay states.

“According to past cleanup data, 75 percent of the debris that volunteers removed today was composed of plastic, a material that never completely bio-degrades and has numerous harmful consequences in the environment,” a press release from the California Coastal Commission states.

“Plastic debris can kill wildlife, leach toxins into the environment, and even introduce them into the food chain. Since up to 80 percent of the trash on the California coast originates on land, volunteers across the state helped prevent enormous amounts of trash from ever reaching the ocean, no matter where they participated.”

A bunch of colorful plastic trash found on the beach. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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