For Humboldt County residents Kate Shea Ortiz and Amelia Burroughs, participating in Saturday's 27th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day was as much about cleaning up one of their favorite beaches as it was a teaching moment for their children.
”It's so important to have this discussion with the kids and involve them,” said Ortiz as she watched her two young daughters play with Burroughs' two daughters in the sand along the north jetty under a cloudless sky. “Today we are teaching them about what goes onto the beach and what doesn't.”
Education is one of the most important components of Coastal Cleanup Day, said Humboldt Surfrider Chapter Secretary Debbie Topping. The statewide cleanup -- put on in Humboldt through the coordination of the North Coast Environmental Center -- took place Saturday morning at a handful of local beaches, rivers, bays and estuaries. Last year, an estimated 1,000 Humboldt County volunteers participated, removing over eight tons of trash and one ton of recycling.
”We are hoping to beat those numbers this year,” Topping said.
As volunteers showed up to scour the dunes and beach sand for trash, Humboldt Bay Keeper Outreach Coordinator Vanessa Vasquez handed out gloves, data cards to tally the amount of trash collected and bags for trash and recycling. She also directed volunteers to special cartons to collect discarded cigarettes brought by Tabacco Free Humboldt Coordinator Jay McCubbrey.
”This is a great day for the cleanup; it's beautiful out,” Vasquez said as she pulled down her baseball cap to keep the sun out of her eyes. “We are seeing a really good turnout this morning.”
For Topping, the most important part of the day was getting the word out and getting people involved in the cleanup effort.
”This is a one-day event, but cleanup should happen year round,” she said.
The two largest sources of trash Topping has noticed on Humboldt beaches are cigarette butts and plastic shards.
”I am always amazed at the handfuls of little shards of plastic I find,” she said. “The problem is they just break up, they don't break down.”