Sounding Off: Help keep our beaches clean

Saturday is the annual Coastal Cleanup Day, a statewide event coordinated by the California Coastal Commission. Upper Newport Bay hosts one of the largest volunteer cleanup efforts in California. Typically about 1,200 or more people venture out into sensitive areas of the saltmarsh around the bay, which are normally off limits, to collect trash. Last year more than 17,000 pounds of trash and more than 2,000 pounds of recyclables were collected.

Many think that the trash results from littering by visitors to the bay, which is not the case. Almost all of the garbage originates in our 154-square-mile watershed that includes all of Tustin, Irvine and parts of several other cities, including Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Lake Forest. Every hamburger wrapper tossed into a gutter and every car tire abandoned in a creek within our watershed will most likely get washed down into the bay in a rainstorm.

Coastal Cleanup Day, which was first held in 1985, originally concentrated on removing trash from the ocean shoreline. Over time the need to move inland to deal with the trash at its source has been recognized and various inland cleanups have been organized. Here at the Back Bay we are grateful to Trails4All and its partners for their efforts upstream in removing trash from the creeks and storm channels in the Newport Bay watershed before washes into the bay. However, proper disposal of trash and measures to reduce the amount of waste generated are much better solutions. All communities in our watershed need to be mindful of this.

Trash disposal is literally in the hands of the consumers, while trash reduction often requires pressure on the part of the consumers to force the producers of goods to minimize the amount of packaging and avoid materials that are harmful to the environment, such as polystyrene. Either way, ongoing outreach is needed to create the necessary level of community awareness.

Public education is a key part of our mission and we are constantly seeking ways to expand our outreach. We are therefore proud to have received funding through the Sempra Energy Foundation Environmental Champions Initiative for a high school environmental stewardship program that will engage students from select schools in developing neighborhood solutions to reduce the amount of trash and other pollutants associated with urban runoff. Over 200 motivated students from Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, Century high schools, as well as and El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, will be joining us for Cleanup Day – the first of three field trips to Upper Newport Bay to prepare the students for class projects to be presented at the Upper Newport Bay Estuary Awareness Day next spring.

If you would like to participate in Saturday's Upper Newport Bay Cleanup, please go to the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach to register. The cleanup effort runs from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Please note that our land-based cleanup will focus on the west side of the bay, where most of the trash accumulates. As in prior years eWaste will have a collection truck in the Interpretive Center parking lot accepting all your electronic waste at no charge. This year Volcom joins us as a major event partner. For more information, visit

ROGER MALLETT is executive director of Newport Bay Naturalists and Friends.

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