On Saturday, August 18th, 40 students from Pacific Palisades Charter High School joined Heal the Bay and Pacific Palisades Democratic Club (PPDC) to clean up Will Rogers State Beach. Donning garden gloves and reused plastic bags, they catalogued the trash they collected — sandy bits of styrofoam, plastic straws, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and more.

Julia Posin facilitates a group discussion on the impacts and solutions to mitigating plastic pollution and urban runoff to our oceans. (Photo: Max Goldberg)

Every day, millions of pieces of trash are littered onto our beautiful California beaches. Even relatively clean beaches like Will Rogers are subject to surprisingly heavy pollution. Few realized that the beach plows, which regularly comb the sand, leave behind microplastics which “photo degrade” over time. Typically, marine life mistakes these microplastics for food, which is why nearly all the world’s seabirds, and half the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic. Much of it travels out to sea, and accumulates in the form of a murky plastic fog in subtropical gyres.

In fact, The 2017 United Nations Clean Seas Campaign asserts that there are 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean today — 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.

As a board member of the PPDC, this is what inspired me to team up with Heal the Bay and adopt Will Rogers State Beach, and host a series of community beach cleanups (the next ones taking place on January 20th, and April 27th, 2019).

“It was really cool to experience something I helped organize be so successful. Although daunting to see buckets and bags containing thousands of pieces of garbage, it was truly magnificent to see what a little bit of time and effort could do to better the environment.” Recalls Eva Bruckner, PPDC intern and Pali High School Student who is co-organizer of the program.

Students scour the beaches collecting bits of plastic and debris. (Photo: Max Goldberg)

Supporting current environmental policies such as AB1884, and Santa Monica City Council’s recent ban on plastic take out materials are important parts of PPDC’s core values. Beyond this, it’s crucial to roll our sleeves up and see first hand the impacts of our consumption habits.

Participants collected data on the found debris, categorizing and counting the pieces as seen in this chart. Heal The Bay will use this information to support things like pushing for better legislation and grading beaches.

“When people see physically how much trash is on the beach that can be picked up in just a few hours, it forces them to look at their own personal accountability. Even one straw really adds up. We get to use this data to give to legislators, and show the correlation between policies and what we find in our local environment,” says Danielle Furuichi, Programs Coordinator at Heal the Bay.

Participants round up all the collected debris with a sense of accomplishment. (Photo: Max Goldberg)

The negative impacts of single use plastic pollution are undeniable. Now the responsibility to mitigate these impacts rests upon us all. We must first refuse, then reduce, then reuse — and lastly recycle — the materials we consume. More pressingly, the larger accountability of the plastics industry and brands that sell plastics must be held accountable through extended producer responsibility for the full lifecycle of their products.

To watch the short video on our clean up, click HERE.


Julia Jaye Posin is a Board Member of the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club and Co-Founder of Steel Straw.

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