CALIFORNIA — The statewide Coastal Cleanup Day, typically held on a Saturday in September, is expanding to a month-long effort this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, with participants asked to focus on their neighborhoods.
"This year, cleaning the coast will start at our own front doors," according to the California Coastal Commission, the environmental effort's organizer since 1984. "For safety reasons, there are no large, centrally organized cleanup sites this year. Instead, cleanups will be self-guided and close to home."
Residents, families and housemates can join in 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on any of the four Saturdays in September (although any day of the week will do), by heading to their nearby parks, streets or local waterways and beaches, if accessible, to round up discarded rubbish.
Cleanup results — pounds of trash and recyclables collected — can then be logged at the CleanSwell data-collection app or online via this form. As in years past, prizes will be awarded for the oddest litter discovery.
"There are always some strange finds during Coastal Cleanup, and to honor that, the Coastal Commission runs an annual 'Most Unusual Item' contest," the agency said. "Some of the previous winners include a hollowed-out pumpkin filled with hard-boiled eggs and a Barbie doll attached to a home-made raft."
San Diego-based seafood chain Rubio's Coastal Grill, with a stated mission to protect California's coastal waters, will reward volunteers, who take a five-minute survey after their cleanup, with a coupon for free chips and guacamole.
Some areas of the state also have local coordinators, organizing special events or virtual programming throughout the month.
And while COVID-19 concerns led to scrapping large-scale efforts this year, the pandemic, itself, is fueling more trash complications, one organizer said.
“‘Leveling the curve’ on the plastic pandemic has become more challenging than ever," said Katherine O’Dea, executive director of Save Our Shores. "And our coast is suffering as takeout has surged, beach use is skyrocketing, PPE has become a hazardous new form of litter, single-use plastic regulations have been suspended or temporarily weakened, and the plastic industry continues to ramp up production.”