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Another Washington Coastal Cleanup Day in the books!

Washington Coastal Cleanup Day is an annual event that brings people across Washington together to take action against ocean pollution and preserve the natural beauty of our coastal areas.

One of the most inspiring aspects of Washington Coastal Cleanup Day is the spirit of collaboration that permeates the event. Local businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies, Tribes, and concerned community members come together with one goal - to leave the beaches better than we found them. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Month than by working with like-minded folks to steward the shores we love.

Grays Harbor chapter volunteers sit in front of a Surfrider canopy, ready to sort trash under blue skies. A closeup image of a pile of trash waiting to be sorted

Grays Harbor Chapter volunteers get ready to sort trash and collect valuable data under some surprisingly blue skies!

Despite a forecast that called for rain, we saw an impressive turnout, with volunteers from all walks of life converging on our coastal places to remove harmful trash and celebrate the beautiful coastal places we are privileged to enjoy here in Washington. We were rewarded with some stellar weather - warm sunshine held out until the rains came right at the end of the cleanup. At Ocean Shores, the new Grays Harbor Chapter hosted two locations, handing out bags and gloves. The high winds made for some exciting trash sorting where I was at the Chance a la Mer beach approach, but we were still able to collect a good amount of data (all of which gets entered into our cleanups database). Per usual, single-use food packaging items, as well as small bits of foam and plastic, were among the top ten items we removed.

WCC totals - 55 vol, 275 lbs of trash, and a graphic of the top 10 items collected, all of which are plastic fragments or single-use food packaging Totals from the Grays Harbor Chapter's Chance a la Mer cleanup - once again, the top 10 items found were plastic and foam fragments as well as single-use food packaging items. 


By the numbers

Surfrider Washington Chapters held 7 cleanups on WCC, removing 2368 lbs of debris. That number jumps to 12 cleanups and 3000 lbs of trash throughout Earth Month. But we are far from the only people cleaning up - other groups, such as the Grassroots Garbage Gang, Lions Club International, Zero Waste WA, Puget Soundkeeper, and so many more, all joined in to clean the coasts from Long Beach to Hobuck, from the Strait through the Sound. The current total for these collective efforts is coming soon!

The Surfrider Suzuki holding up a large Coastsavers Beach Cleanup banner in front of dune scrub under blue skies

Shout out to Washington Coastsavers for their leadership in organizing this annual coastwide cleanup, as well as to WA State Parks and City of Ocean Shores staff for all their help! Suzi doing her best to help advertise. 


The impact

While I do love a beach cleanup, it’s important to point out that they are NOT the solution to the plastic crisis, though they are an important piece of the source reduction puzzle. By continuing to highlight the ever-increasing threat of plastic pollution to our marine ecosystems through beach cleanups, and by collecting data that show the leading sources of that pollution, we are better positioned to demand policies that prevent the production of unnecessary plastic products. 

 IMG_4082  TrashSorting

Volunteers weigh and sort the beach trash. We leverage these valuable data towards plastic reduction policies so we can stop pollution at its source before it washes into the ocean

A great example of this is the single-use foam cups, clamshells, and bowls we found at the latest cleanup. For years, foam fragments have made the top 3 items removed from our beaches, which is why we advocated for a ban on commonly found single-use items, such as the cups and bowls pictured here. These products will soon be banned from sale and distribution in Washington State! The SB 5022 bill that Surfrider, along with the rest of the Plastic Free WA / WA Sin Plástico Coalition, helped to pass in 2021, goes into effect this June! For more information on why it’s time to forget the foam, check out this blog post. For a list of items to be banned, head to Ecology’s website.

             A gloved hand holds up two used styrofoam cups in front of a Surfrider beach cleanup tent under blue skies . A used styrofoam bowl held out in front of a surfrider canopy under a blue sky with white clouds

Unnecessary single-use foam products, such as these cups and bowls found at this year's WA Coastal Cleanup, will soon be banned in WA State, thanks to a bill we worked to help pass in 2021. 

This year’s WCC happened around the same time as the UN Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Ottawa, Canada, where advocates from across the planet demanded global action. While the results are underwhelming (spoil alert - plastic and fossil fuel industries continue to obstruct the level of action needed to truly change things, and the US has yet to step up and be the global leader that it should be given our country’s contributions to this crisis), Surfrider, along with so many other groups, nations, and individuals, will continue to the fight to end plastic pollution. 

Constant pressure, endlessly applied.