REGION — On Sept. 15, thousands of residents throughout San Diego County will take to the beaches, waterways and inland environments as part of the 34th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day.
In San Diego County, the event is organized by I Love a Clean San Diego, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping the environment clean and free from trash and litter, for the past 33 years.
Becca Kuntz, marketing coordinator for I Love a Clean San Diego, said there are 107 locations including four on-water sites for volunteers to participate. The event runs from 9 a.m. to noon at all locations.
“It’s aimed at coastline, but we have actually gone inland for many, many years,” Kuntz said. “We also really like to focus on how inland trash becomes marine debris through our watershed.”
Over the event’s history, millions of pounds of trash has been collected statewide. In San Diego County, last year’s effort resulted in 6,686 volunteers collecting 128,168 pounds of litter, according to the city of Carlsbad’s website.
Volunteers can register through www.cleanupday.org or on the day of the event, Kuntz said. The goal, she said, is to enroll up to 8,000 people for this year’s event. Currently, Kuntz said, more than 6,000 people have registered.
Participants are advised to bring their own bucket, gloves and water bottle, although limited supplies are offered by I Love a Clean San Diego.
Cleanup volunteers are not relegated to trash pickup as they also collect data on types of trash and debris found. This data is used to educate the public, businesses, industries and government on pollution prevention, according to Carlsbad’s website.
I Love a Clean San Diego also has an interactive map showing the locations from Escondido to Oceanside to Alpine to the border.
“We just want to get as many people involved so we can learn about our environment together,” Kuntz added. “We really encourage the zero-waste practices through competitions (at the cleanup).”
One of the biggest challenges, she said, is tackling the thousands of single-use plastic items, including bags and water bottles discarded along the coast, inland waterways and other habit.
Single-use plastics are one of the biggest environmental concerns and topics today. California banned single-use plastic bags last year, while hundreds of other municipalities across the nation have either instituted bans or taxes on bags.
Additionally, there is growing momentum for banning or taxing single-use plastic straws, which also find their way into the environment.
Kuntz said part of the event is an educational experience, where volunteers are taught of the life cycle of litter, especially plastics and how the harm the environment.
“We really try to educate on the same time,” she explained. “When we cut down on those single-use items, we create less waste at the same time. Single-use plastics are an issue we need to take a look at in general. We don’t think about where it goes.”