Record Breaking Turn-out for Tsuanami Sweepers Cleanup

Volunteers picking up litter before it is swept away by the tide. We are passion in action.

San Diego’s Tsunami Sweepers were at it again last weekend for our first cleanup of 2016! I Love A Clean San Diego has been named the first responder in San Diego to assist in the cleanup of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami that is expected to wash up on California’s shores in 2016.

While our volunteers were looking for tsunami debris, there was plenty of litter to pickup on our end, as well. Our coastline is the last stop for litter before it reaches the Pacific Ocean so ILACSD and an astounding crew of 305 volunteers set out to beautify one of San Diego’s most scenic and iconic natural spaces, Torrey Pines State Beach.

Volunteers ready to cleanup with waivers and even reusable buckets in hand!

Even with a chance of rain in the forecast, hundreds of San Diegans turned-out to keep Torrey Pines State Beach clean and beautiful. Equipped with bags, buckets, trash grabbers and gloves, volunteers of all ages spread out across the sandy coastline and walkways. 

Volunteers took to the walkways in addition to the sandy beach where they found more Styrofoam and cigarette butts.

Thanks to the full moon, the tide was unusually high, but that didn’t slow down our team of dedicated volunteers. Many of them took to the nearby walkways to capture trash before it reached the sand and tide, as well.

On the beach side of the cleanup, volunteers continued to find small pieces of trash including several pieces of fishing net.

Rocks and boulders are the perfect hiding spots for litter.

In a matter of only two hours, volunteers collected mostly cigarette butts, bits of Styrofoam and food wrappers. Even though our volunteers didn’t find any tsunami specific debris, volunteers still collected over 500 pounds of litter! 

Weighing the litter at the end of the event is one of the most rewarding parts of every cleanup we do.

If you weren’t able to make it to our first cleanup, don’t worry! We have monthly cleanups as well as two countywide cleanups, Creek to Bay and Coastal Cleanup Day. Find out how to get involved by visiting our upcoming events page!

Did you resolve to volunteer in 2015? Join us for our 1st cleanup of the year!

Lexi, Community Events CoordinatorToday’s blog comes from our Community Events Coordinator, Lexi! If you have volunteered at one of our cleanups there is a good chance you’ve listened in on one of her safety talks and witnessed her passion for the environment first-hand. Read on to learn more about why you should join her this Saturday, January 17th for one of our most unique cleanups of the year!

Looking to put a spin on your next beach cleanup? Help us comb through the sand at Torrey Pines State Beach on Saturday, January 17! This is the first of our 2015 Tsunami Sweepers Cleanups, a series of volunteer events with a goal of tracking debris from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck the eastern coast of Japan.

When the tsunami waves hit coastal Japan in March of 2011, an estimated 5 million tons of debris washed out into the Pacific Ocean. Of the 5 million tons, the Japanese Government has approximated that 30 percent of it—1.5 million tons—was buoyant enough to travel out into the ocean via wind and water currents.

Over the next several years, Californians should expect to see an increased volume of debris washing ashore—and some of it has traveled very, very far to get here. Thankfully, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) anticipates no elevated level of radiation in any of these items that may have originated near the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

Bits of polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as styrofoam.
Bits of polystyrene foam (commonly referred to as Styrofoam) never fully degrade and easily mix in with rocks and sand. This is harmful to marine life as they often mistake it for food.

Thanks to the California Coastal Commission, we will be providing volunteers with data cards at these cleanups so that they can search for and track possible debris from this disaster. What will this debris look like? Some expected items include construction debris like lumber or building materials, consumer debris with Japanese characters or text, fishing gear, and polystyrene foam (Styrofoam).

Think it’s easy to identify these items and trace them back to Japan? It may be more difficult than it sounds. Even if our volunteers find large volumes of polystyrene foam debris, it can be challenging—and maybe even impossible—to be able to track it back to Japan. After all, our volunteers find polystyrene foam litter at many of our other cleanups, too.

But we purposefully selected Torrey Pines State Beach as the location for this event. NOAA has estimated that any tsunami debris that does wash up this far south down the coast will hit Torrey Pines, based on water and wind current patterns.

IMG_0493The California Coastal Commission funded a round of these cleanups in 2013, and more than 5,400 volunteers hit beaches up and down the coast to hunt for tsunami debris. While it has been challenging to confirm that any of the items found originated in Japan, many suspicious items have been found, including building materials and lumber with joinery more common to Japan than to US construction.

Volunteers are still needed for this event. To get involved, contact Lexi Ambrogi at or 619-704-2778. Hope to see you there!

Tsunami Debris, Paint, and… Intestines? A Creek to Bay Site Captain Profile

The 12th annual Creek to Bay cleanup is coming up on April 26! We like to give our volunteers some background on the site captains who help lead the cleanup, as well as some facts about various sites at which they may volunteer. Today we profiled Wainwright Hester, a long-time C2B site captain and big advocate of cleaning up SD!

Hester captaining away at C2B
Hester captaining away at C2B

Wainwright Hester had been organizing cleanups at his work for years, often at Creek to Bay sites.  One year a  call went out for  site captains and he thought he’d help out and give it a try.  Seeing all of the trash that could have stayed in the area without all of the volunteers’ hard work made the whole experience well worth it.  Wainwright thinks the C2B cleanup is really important for our local environment.  So much debris collects in our waterways that, if not regularly cleaned out, it would cascade into a much bigger problem! If we can catch those containers with paint, oil, or whatever chemical is lurking inside of them, before they degrade enough to leak, we can keep a simple cleanup from  turning into a major cleanup. Plus, the longer trash is in our waterways, the more it decays from one big piece into numerous smaller pieces and thus making it harder to completely remove.

c2b13 trash

This year, as he has in the past, Wainwright is captaining  Torrey Pines State Park and, according to the California Coastal Commission, Torrey Pines is a prime site for Japanese tsunami debris to accumulate. Last year he didn’t find any obvious tsunami debris but volunteers could possibly find some this year.  When asked what the weirdest object Wainwright found at a cleanup was, he replied, “I was at Ponto State Beach a few years ago and someone found animal intestines. Animal: at least that’s what we kept telling ourselves.” Hey, at least our cleanups are both beneficial AND keep you on your toes?

Volunteers of all ages, helping clean up Torrey Pines State Beach!
Volunteers of all ages, helping clean up Torrey Pines State Beach!

Wainwright’s favorite part of the Creek to Bay Cleanup is the volunteers. Since they are volunteering, they often have a volunteering attitude so they are willing to do whatever needs to be done to make his C2B site a success.

Any final words to encourage our wonderful ILACSD team to sign up and volunteer for C2B 2014, Wainwright? “I think that everyone should participate in at least one clean up in their lifetime because it would bring awareness to what actually happens when someone does not throw their trash into a trash can. It would be a real eye opener for people who think that litter is either not a problem or that nature alone can handle it.” We couldn’t put it better.  Thanks for all your hard work, Wainwright, and we look forward to seeing you on the 26th!

Join Wainwright at Torrey Pines, or any of our other 90+ inland and coastal Creek to Bay cleanup locations: sign up today!