Volunteers pitch in to help clean up


The California coastline is a jewel of a view, but keeping the Pacific Ocean beaches pristine can take some work. Luckily, enough people care to spend hours picking up trash during the annual statewide Coastal Cleanup Day. The three-mile-stretch of San Francisco's Ocean Beach is one place that gets its fair share of litter.

"Broken glass, a lot of broken glass right along this parking area here. Out there we have plastic water bottle caps," said Laurette Lau, a clean-up volunteer.

Those who return every year to clean-up are seeing a difference.

"There's considerably less trash this year than in the year's past, so we know it's working," said Lau.

"People are more aware of what their actions are, how they're behaving and taking care of the debris that they create out here," said Denise Shea, with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Coastal Clean-up Day is sponsored by the California Coastal Commission and various county pollution prevention programs. After 24 years of doing this, you'd think people would get the message and the littering would eventually end, but organizers say the problem also stems from human consumption.

"We're just using too much stuff in the first place. I think what we need to do is we need to reduce the amount of trash that we create, so that we have less to clean up every September," said Eben Schwartz, the director of Coastal Clean-up Day, and part of the California Coastal Commission.

This year's clean-up included 750 locations in 48 counties around the state, and the volunteers are come in record-numbers.

Organizers of Coastal Clean-up Day say this is the biggest turnout ever they've had here in San Francisco, with nearly 3,000 volunteers picking up about 20,000 pounds of trash.

"Cigarette butt. Cigarette butt alert right there," said a volunteer picking up trash.

Trash was also vigorously collected by volunteers working with San Francisco's Department of Public Works' Community Clean Team.

"We have a couple hundred volunteers throughout Bay View, Hunters Point, and Visitation Valley. We're tending to community gardens, picking up litter all over the district, but especially right here by the waterway trying to keep litter out of the bay," said Christine Falvey, a San Francisco Department of Public Works spokesperson.

At Warm Water Cove Park in the Bayview Neighborhood, the trashy finds ranged from a bicycle tire, to diapers, to band-aids.

"And batteries, and appliances," said Laila Zaidi, a volunteer.

"It's like really bad for the environment, and I think that it's really good that we're picking it up," said Elizabeth Jones, a volunteer.

That's the civic, responsible mindset that will help keep California's beaches and waterways clean.

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