By Marianne Butler
Environmental Education Program Manager, Solano Resource Conservation District
Solano County volunteers spent part of Saturday at cleanup sites on waterways throughout the County. These volunteers, 2,885 in all, joined nearly 70,000 other Californians in the California Coastal Commission’s 28th Annual Coastal Cleanup, part of an international cleanup effort to protect the world’s oceans from harmful debris making its way to coastlines from local beaches, waterways and inland areas.
Volunteers gave three hours of their morning to remove a total of 81,873 pounds of trash and 2,906 pounds of recyclables from waterways across the County. The distance cleaned this year was higher than the past couple years with 81 miles of neighborhood parks, hiking trails, bridges, creeks, and lakes. Volunteers collected buckets full of food wrappers and cigarette butts while heavy lifters removed tires, an air conditioner, mattresses, a medicine cabinet, a barber chair and even a live kitten.
“Every year I am blown away by the people who show up to make a difference in our County,” reports Marianne Butler of the Solano Resource Conservation District, who serves as Solano County’s Coastal Cleanup Day Coordinator. “These people get up early on a Saturday morning to clean up their watershed. They pick up trash and debris, and prevent it from entering the ocean. When the volunteers leave for the day, our Solano County Cleanup sites look better, but more importantly, they won’t be sending trash to the ocean and the plants and wildlife that depend on the sites’ water and habitat are better off. And – to top it all off, everyone seems to have had a great time! I think it’s absolutely terrific!”
Event participation in Rio Vista increased this year. Last year 17 people participated in the Cleanup; this year 62 volunteers came out, giving Rio Vista the proud distinction of being the only city to triple their numbers from last year. Many Rio Vista Cleanup participants were children in kindergarten through fifth grades, including Cub Scout Pack 101, Boy Scout Troop 285, and Girl Scout Troop 1782. Dominic Vieira from DH White Elementary School explained, “We came to pick up trash because it could harm animals and get in the waterways.”
Event organizers stress that today’s volunteers have made a real difference. “I think it’s a good sign that the amount of recyclables volunteers recovered fell this year– that the lower number indicates that our recycling message is getting through to people and making a difference in the watershed,” said Narcisa Untal, Solano County’s Integrated Waste Management Planner. Untal continues, “Some pollutants found today traveled by wind or rain from where they were initially littered on city streets. Those pollutants enter urban storm drain systems, traveling to County creeks, and would ultimately end up in the Ocean, if events like Coastal Clean Up didn’t interrupt the cycle. This event does more than accomplish a huge amount of debris removal in a short amount of time. Coastal Cleanup Day provides volunteers with a hands-on education about the impacts littering has on the lands we live on, the waters we drink from, and the wildlife we share the County with.”
Jennifer Kaiser of the Vallejo Sanitation and Flood Control District has been helping to teach this lesson for 8 years, and enthuses, “the 2012 Coastal Cleanup brought out more Vallejoans to pick up trash than we’ve ever seen before. This year, we picked up 67,060 pounds of trash, up from 41,910 pounds in 2011. It was incredibly inspiring to see so many people so committed to caring for our County and doing such a fantastic job.” Almost a thousand volunteers worked at 18 separate sites in Vallejo this year, and the increasing success of the Vallejo program must be at least partially a reflection of Kaiser’s hard work and upbeat attitude.
This effort was repeated at another 38 sites throughout Solano County. A total of 56 sites participated in the 2012 Coastal Cleanup event; up three sites from 2011. Enhanced ‘zero waste’ sites were sponsored by the various Solano County cities. These sites used reusable burlap sacks, buckets from Ruszel Woodworks, reusable gloves from Pacific Ace Hardware in Vacaville (most sites reused last gloves from last year), and biodegradable cups from Solano County Water Agency, all of which helped to make 20 out of 56 sites generate nearly zero waste in their Cleanup efforts.
Participation in the Solano County Cleanup continues to grow on the sponsorship front as well. This year, the County welcomes Caltrans to its donor group. The agency contributed moveable electronic bill boards on Interstate 80 promoting the event, as well as use of long handled picker-uppers for event participants. The Solano County Coastal Cleanup effort thanks all our generous donors, and our hardworking volunteers for helping to make the 2012 Coastal Cleanup such a success!