International Coastal Cleanup Day at the Ocean Institute

Volunteers at Ocean Institute during beach cleanup. Ocean Institute | Courtesy

 Bringing awareness to the cleanliness of our beaches

 The Ocean Institute in Dana Point held a beach cleanup in awareness of International Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 17. The institute takes pride in how much trash they pick up after every event. In 2019, they picked up over 1,700 pounds of trash just off our coast.  Elizabeth Salsbury is an Ocean Institute employee who is in charge of the cleanups, which are hosted by Stand Up To Trash.

A promise to bring cleanliness to nature and raise awareness of all the pollution amongst our beaches all around the world, these events are one step in the right direction. 

Although beach cleanups happen monthly at the Ocean Institute, this day sticks out because many gather around the world in their own communities to help pick up any trash they can find on the beach. Hundreds of pounds of trash are picked up on just this specific day. Trash was found on shore washed up, coming from boats where people dump their trash while being out, or even people relaxing on the beach who decide to leave without picking up after themselves. Cigarette butts, seaweed wrapped around trash, flip-flops, forks, straws and fishing lines cut up by fishermen were found littering the beach. 

Dana Point’s Baby Beach was cleaned due to its close proximity to the institute. This beach is known for its calm waters and attracts many locals and tourists, while the weather is in perfect condition. The beach fills up to the point where no sand can be seen. The amount of trash left behind is astonishing and makes communities question our negligence.

While many agree beach cleanups are important and necessary, Salsbury spoke on why she believes it is needed to improve the cleanliness of our beaches and ocean.

“I believe it’s more necessary as an awareness factor,” Salsbury said. “I am a bit of a pessimist. I’ll admit that we are never going to be able to pick up all of the trash, but, by being in a large group and picking up what we can, and putting it in a single pile, we realize that this is not sustainable.”

At 9-11 a.m. people showed up at the Ocean Institute ready to clean up the beach and were welcomed with hot chocolate and coffee. Participants were handed trash bags and gloves and were on their way to pick up some trash.

Not only does the Institute do beach cleanups on the actual beach, but they give people the option to get in a kayak or paddle board and clean up the trash that has been left in the water. This does not come as a surprise since most of the trash is taken by currents into the water and is harder to clean up.

“We cannot be making objects at the rate that we’re doing,” Salsbury said. “We have no way to take care of it at the end, we just put it all in a pile and bury it under some dirt.”

Doing these beach cleanups is a step in the right direction, and it is a team effort. The more people come out to these events, the more of an impact we have.

Now the Ocean Institute realizes not everyone can show up to these events and help clean up beaches near them. Salsbury established that there are some things you can do at home to help prevent trash on the beach.

“Reduce, reuse, recycle. The 3 r’s,” Salisbury said. “Recycle is the last step, reduce is the first, you don’t need to buy an entire 20 set of plastic cups. Get yourself one reusable one, and even if they do need to be plastic cups get yourself a 10-set or a 5-set.”

This event brought attention to something really important that is not thought about on a day-to-day basis. There are many events that anyone can volunteer in and play their part in. The Ocean Institute has beach cleanups monthly and provides many opportunities to help local beaches be cleaner and healthier.