On October 25th, thirty total students participated in Secret Waterfall Beach Clean-up 2009. Canada College’s local chapter, Beta Zeta Nu, teamed up with three other chapters to lend our full weight to clean up a beach in Pacifica infamous for its pollution by the local populace. We joined forces with The College of San Mateo’s chapter, Beta Xi Eta, and the De Anza chapter, Alpha Sigma Alpha. The location we visited was ‘The Secret Waterfall,’ which has become a trash depository of the suburbia of northern Pacifica.
This entire effort was directed by a non-profit organization called the Pacifica Beach Coalition, lead by their president, Lynn Edwards.
When we arrived, the beach looked horrible. There is a waterfall deep in the cliffs that forms a stream to the beach. Trash was everywhere up and along the stream leading to the ocean, where the waves would then grab the detritus and take it out to sea. The usual suspects were present: bottles, bags, cigarette butts, lighters, and other flotsam. However, by far the most threatening, ubiquitous, and pernicious item was the thousands of pebble-sized pieces of Styrofoam scattered over the one hundred square feet of the environs of the stream. Birds, fish, and other marine life eat these bite-sized pellets ignorant of the death sentence they levy. The consequence is for every piece of styrofoam the size of a head of a pin a fish eats, a fish dies. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands, and it becomes clear why our world is in a fish population crisis.
To find out just how many pellets of styrofoam were strewn about the area, I measured out a 10'x10' square of ground. I had people gather every piece of styrofoam. We then measured the creek area and then extrapolated how many styrofoam bits there were on the entire site. It was calculated that there was approximately 1,500,000 bits of styrofoam in the Secret Waterfall site alone. There are hundreds of these kinds of streams feeding into our oceans and our food supply. That results in millions of pieces of styrofoam going into the sea and killing its equivalent in sea life. It really opened my eyes and significantly raised my awareness on how we are unwittingly killing thousands of members of the food chain that we as a race depend on for survival.
Our group picked up approximately 100 lbs of plastic at the site, which means we saved a lot of birds and sea life from choking and prevented more waste from polluting the environment. The president of the Pacifica beach coalition took the bags to the next city council meeting and presented them to them to give them a stark visual of how new ordinances need to be put in place if we are to have an impact in saving vital members of the food chain upon which we depend.