Monday, September 22, 2014

Waste Less Challenge: Week 4

Since announcing the Waste Less Challenge I’ve been picking up trash every other weekend. I've visited parks, neighborhoods and even the Santa Ana River. Armed with gloves, a bucket, tongs and some friends, I've discovered picking up trash is the most stress free, relaxing volunteering I have been a part of. And I’m not going to stop!

The second Green Bird clean up was held at Maxwell Park in West Anaheim. Between soccer games, birthday parties and the new bike trail, this park is a high traffic area, especially on weekends. Surprisingly the park appeared to be clean. That’s because the majority of the trash was small. Between picking up food wrappers and bottles, we collected cigarette butts, water bottle lids and remnants of broken piƱatas. It was disappointing that most of the trash collected was within feet of the park’s many trashcans which are emptied regularly and are rarely overflowing.

Though in a historic area, Pearson Park and its surrounding neighborhood, has a problem with park visitors abandoning much of their trash after late night gatherings. Heading through the neighborhood we found plenty of trash in the street gutters including paper, food wrappers and of course, cigarette butts. We passed a corner market that sits in the neighborhood that had so much trash in the parking lot and gutter around their store. Left behind were the metal beer tops that had melted into the asphalt and the piles of trash in the alley behind the store that simply didn't fit in our buckets. I just hope the ducks, turtles and birds that live in this park have become good at recognizing the difference between food and trash.

This past weekend I got to take a dip in the Santa Ana River for the first time as part of the Inner Coastal clean up. Though it wasn't really a dip, because the river bed was dry, it was a big deal since I had never set foot in the river since Southern California Rivers are paved in concrete. This happened decades ago so that the rivers couldn't change their course and the water could reach the mouth of the river faster without flooding cities along the way. I was pleasantly surprised to find the bottom of the riverbed was coarse sand sprinkled with sea shells and dried seaweed.

This reminds me of Wall-E
We encountered the typical litter – food packages, cigarette butts and water bottles. There were some articles of clothing which is most likely from the people who make the riverbed their home, but aside from a golf ball, we didn't come across anything too interesting. It was however the first time I came across large amounts of Styrofoam. Not just any Styrofoam, but Styrofoam that was coming apart in pieces. Since I had only ever seen whole Styrofoam I never really understood how fish, birds or turtles could mistake it as food. Holding a piece in my hand, it looked like coral, and definitely is something wildlife would think was food.

There isn't water recreation going on in the river, but many of the runners and cyclists on the river trail parallel to the Santa Ana River expressed their gratitude for the trash pickup with their thank you. I kept hoping some of the runners and cyclists would stop and help pick up trash because it is their bike trail. One cyclist stopped and said, “You guys are everywhere.” I responded, “The trash is everywhere.” Eventually we just had to stop picking up trash, because there was so much of it. At some point you have to say you've picked up enough for today.

Have you picked up your enough for today?

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