By Jacqueline Winberg
Plastic is plaguing our beaches despite the new plastic bag ban. Since we started hosting beach cleanups in March 2015, the most commonly found items are bottle caps and cigarette butts. After that, it's tiny plastic bits anywhere from 3" to a couple millimeters. They range in color from bright green and blue to reds. The hardest plastics to find are the ones that are transparent. Bags and straw wrappers are some of those culprits clinging onto the sand that are often overlooked. We also find medical waste like syringes and prescription bottles. And then, it gets worse: used feminine hygiene products, condoms, and even sexual devices. Imagine a child playing in the sand coming across one of these items. Horrifying.
Why do we have a chronic pollution problem on Orange County, CA beaches? Think about it...
A reoccurring idea we contemplate is "the big picture perspective."
The beach is gorgeous, but until someone experiences a cleanup they may not even notice pollution on the sand and tangled in the seaweed. One of the reasons it's so important for Coastal Angels to give our community a hands on experience, is to show them that although we have some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, they are plagued by tar, plastic bits, medical waste, and all kinds of other garbage. These items are a leading cause of death to innocent creatures. In 2016, at every beach cleanup we have found dead animals, usually seagulls, but they have also ranged from rats and squirrels, to gophers.
Wild and marine life are curious creatures and by no fault of their own they taste test all kinds of trash thinking it's food (watch our video of a seagull tasting a balloon). Unfortunately, consuming plastic usually spells out a death sentence for most of these creatures.
We have to be the positive difference makers in Orange County, CA. We have to inspire those around us to also believe in protecting the earth. We have to create change within our residences and also where you can always call your true home: the outdoors. Respect, reuse, recycle, refuse, and reduce are the five Rs Coastal Angels promotes. Respecting our common home, this earth, requires patience, knowledge, and a willingness to practice. Nobody is perfect, nor will they ever be. Regardless, we still can strive to hope, love, be thoughtful, and considerate of our surroundings. It seems as though this is a missing link. This may be a reason why people litter or don't go the extra mile for the planet. Maybe it has something to do with lifestyle choices and adhering to a certain code or stereotype.
Our hundreds of volunteers, come from every economic, religious, and political background. There's no stereotype for Coastal Angels. We are all on this boat together, whether you like it or not. Your beach is my beach and vice versa. There is beauty in wildlife, a beauty that needs to be protected and respected. Let's put ethics and consideration before profits and wastefulness so that we can leave something to be proud of for the next generation.
As we quickly approach a new year, know that our Coastal Angels volunteers helped prevent marine and wild life from eating harmful plastics, reduced beach goers' exposure to pollutants, and worked very hard to protect the environment on the sand and through the media. Our volunteers are like an army fighting plastic pollution.
We give thanks to everyone who supports our cause and encourage you to be that positive difference maker in your family or circle of friends. You can change the world, only if you believe it.