Storm drains dump untreated, unsafe water on our beaches – Heal the Bay’s Storm Response Team gives you the safety guidelines to get out a cleanup and stop the trash before it reaches our marine life neighbors at the coastline.
EACH TIME IT RAINS, the Los Angeles storm drain system rushes untreated waterand all the debris that litters our streets, gutters, and sidewalks right into our beaches and coastline. Cleaning up the mess made by these trash-freeways in our community calls for the help of our trusty Storm Response Team! Made up of Heal the Bay staff and dedicated volunteers, the Storm Response Team acts as the last line of defense, removing garbage washed out of the storm drain system and local waterways before it reaches the ocean. Interested in conducting your own Storm Response Team deployment? Please remember to stay safe and follow our extended self-guided cleanup safety tips for post-storm and atmospheric river conditions.
When the call goes out, the Team puts on their rubber boots, gloves, and raincoats and goes out during low tide or during a break in the rain to local catch basins and outfalls, gathering as much trash as they can. Pollution and litter upstream are swept through the system and, while the Heal the Bay team attempts to get out there quickly, a barrage of atmospheric rivers dousing our southland can make it extremely difficult to stave the flow of trash, debris, and unsafe particulates. We are encouraged by the volunteers who have reached out about helping to do individual clean ups, but we must warn that it is a filthy job and volunteers should proceed with caution.
Heal the Bay is constantly advocating for upstream solutions that would stop the flow of pollution into our local waterways and prevent the need for storm response teams in the future. Reducing single-use plastics and polystyrene, the technical term for products commonly referred to as styrofoam, has a significant impact on reducing the amount of trash that reaches our oceans.
Heal the Bay also supports efforts to collect, treat, and use stormwater. Measure W, passed in 2018, provides funding for local stormwater capture, treatment, and reuse projects. These efforts will drastically reduce our reliance on imported water, reduce pollution in our local waterways and coastal waters, and reduce risks to public health.
Stay out of the water. The County of Los Angeles Environmental Health Department and Heal the Bay urge residents and visitors to avoid water contact at Los Angeles County beaches for at least 72 hours following rain event. Check our Beach Report Card website or app before your next swim along the coast.
Written by Stephanie Gebhardt. As our Beach Programs Manager, Stephanie organizes Heal the Bay’s beach cleanups and community beautification projects. With experience in sustainability consulting and science communication, she unites Angelenos in protecting what they love.
The Clean Water Act revolutionized water protection law and has resulted in multiple cleanup success stories. However, as of March 2022, the goals of the Clean Water Act are not being met, and there is still much work to be done to achieve fishable, swimmable, drinkable water across the US.
LIVING IN A WATER-SCARCE region like Southern California, I hear this a lot: Water is life! And more than that, the quality of water affects the quality of life for humans, the environment, ecosystems, and, of course, the waters themselves. The US federal government recognized this decades ago, and created the first major federal law in the US to address water pollution, called the 1948 Federal Water Pollution Control Act. However, this policy was ineffective owing to a lack of oversight and enforceability. Public pressure following a series of environmental plights (including the Cuyahoga River catching on fire) forced the US to reconsider its approach, leading to the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) Amendment. This amendment, among many upgrades, gave the EPA more regulatory control to enforce clean water requirements and achieve swimmable, fishable, drinkable water.
The CWA protects areas designated as Waters of the US (WOTUS) including streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and wetlands. Waters of the US are designated with various beneficial uses such as water supply, navigation, recreation, fishing, habitat, etc. In California, new designation categories are being added now for Tribal Cultural and Subsistence Fishing beneficial uses. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which reports to the EPA, enforces the federal Clean Water Act locally by determining the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of pollution that a waterway can handle while still supporting its beneficial uses, and then regulating discharge to stay below that contamination limit. For more information on the structure of the CWA, check out Heal the Bay’s Clean Water Act Knowledge Drop.
Initially, the CWA aimed to achieve pollution-free waters by 1985. Unfortunately, that goal was not met. While this innovative water protection law has resulted in a number of water quality success stories, there is still much work to be done. In fact, as of March 2022, about half of US waterways remain impaired. According to a report from the Environmental Integrity Project, California unfortunately ranked first in the US for most river and stream miles listed as impaired for drinking water, and third for fish consumption.
The Los Angeles Region alone has 210 total waterways listed as impaired by pollution in 2022, and since many of those waterways are impaired for more than one pollutant, there are a total of 877 listings in LA. Fifty-four of these listings are related to trash pollution, even though LA was one of the first regions to adopt “zero trash” regulations.
Santa Monica Bay is one of the waterways of LA listed as impaired by trash pollution and the Bay, along with the watersheds that drain into it and the beaches that line it, need care, protection, and advocacy. On Saturday, October 15, 2022, 366 Heal the Bay volunteers took to Will Rogers State Beach, just north of Santa Monica, for one of the biggest Nothin’ But Sand Beach cleanups of the year. In just under two hours, over 145lbs of trash were cataloged and removed from the shore. Thank you to all our volunteers who came out to help keep our precious coastline clean.
PHOTO SET: Hundreds of volunteers support Heal the Bay’s October Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanup in honor of the Clean Water Act 50 Year Anniversary. A special thanks to our cleanup sponsors Subaru and Audacy. Photos by Bria Royal / Heal the Bay
PHOTO: Heal the Bay staff member, Forest Leigh, inspecting trash pollution after a first flush event. Photo by Katherine Pease / Heal the Bay
Despite the remaining pollution in our waters, the Supreme Court is considering changes to the definition of WOTUS, which could leave many waters unprotected under the CWA. But there are also many folks working hard towards swimmable, fishable, drinkable water for all. The EPA rereleased its 2022-2032 Vision for achieving CWA goals. The 2022-2023 Vision aims to maximize coordination through partnerships to plan and prioritize opportunities for holistic watershed protection, restoration, and data analysis; and it includes new focus areas for environmental justice, climate change, tribal water quality, and program development, as well as an increase to overall program capacity. Heal the Bay and other NGOs will continue to advocate for water quality projects and comprehensive and science-based water quality regulation under the CWA.
50 years after the Clean Water Act was established, California’s waterways still need the protection and attention of all those who can help. Discover all the ways you can make an impact. Register to attend Heal the Bay Volunteer Orientation and help us make strides for the next 50 years.
Written by Annelisa Moe. As a Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist, Annelisa helps to keep L.A. water clean and safe by advocating for comprehensive and science-based water quality regulation and enforcement. Before joining the team at Heal the Bay, she worked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board in both the underground storage tank program and the surface water ambient monitoring program.
HEAL THE BAY IS ENCOURAGED to share that California has taken a major step forward in addressing the plastic pollution and waste crisis with the passage of Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) in the California State Legislature, followed by Governor Newsom signing it into law on June 30, 2022.
Reducing single-use plastics through comprehensive statewide policy is a priority for Heal the Bay. During Heal the Bay beach cleanups, 80% of the more than 4 million pieces of trash that our volunteers pick up is made from single-use plastics. In our ocean and rivers, plastic waste poses a significant threat to animals, leaching harmful chemicals into their bodies or even blocking their digestive tract, leading to starvation and malnourishment. The plastic pollution can even transfer up the food chain ultimately passing the toxins on to us.
SB 54, authored by Senator Ben Allen, establishes a producer responsibility scheme to hold plastic industries accountable for the waste they produce. We look forward to working with Senator Allen on the implementation of SB 54, and with our environmental justice partners to ensure low-income communities and communities of color don’t bear additional burdens. Pollution from the full lifecycle of plastics, which are derived from fossil fuels, already harms communities of color disproportionately. This pollution can lead to health impacts such as asthma, respiratory illness, headaches, fatigue, nosebleeds, and even cancer.
“Heal the Bay envisions a solution that moves us entirely away from single-use materials, especially plastics, and focuses on reuse and refill instead. Even though recycling is an important part of this process, we cannot recycle our way out — nor can we use dangerous chemical recycling methods that dispose of plastics in our air. We will continue to push hard, alongside other environmental and community-based organizations and advocates, to ensure the producer responsibility program established by SB 54 prioritizes reuse and refill,” said Tracy Quinn, Heal the Bay CEO and President.
The passing of this legislation ultimately means the California Recycling and Plastics Pollution Reduction Act Initiative, which was supposed to be on the November 2022 ballot, will be pulled. While we were thrilled to give California voters the opportunity to make this decision, our California legislature has incorporated many of the requirements and solutions laid out in the plastic ballot measure. The momentum of the plastic ballot measure brought industry to the table to make real commitments, and we are going to hold them to it.
What’s included in SB 54:
Sets a 25% source reduction goal for single-use packaging production by 2032. And by then, 65% of single-use packaging still being produced will need to be truly recyclable or compostable
Establishes a producer responsibility scheme through the formation of a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) to help California reduce plastic pollution, and creates strong state government enforcement and oversight that will remove power from the PRO should they fall out of compliance
Requires $5 billion of environmental mitigation funding from plastic producers to go toward environmental restoration and cleanup over 10-years
What needs to be improved upon in the legislation:
Does not outright ban polystyrene, rather it sets recycling rates of 25% by 2025 with the material being banned if this rate cannot be met
Allows for post-consumer recycled content (recycled plastic that is used in a new product) to count toward source reduction goal
Heal the Bay thanks Senator Allen and the bill’s co-authors Senators Becker, Gonzalez, Hertzberg, Kamlager, Skinner, Stern, and Wiener for championing SB 54. A huge thank you to Assemblymember Luz Rivas who advocated for important amendments. With the passage of SB 54, we look forward to experiencing less plastic pollution in our communities and environments and seeing a decrease in public health risks in the years to come.
Cigarette filters made from single-use plastic are a huge environmental problem, butt (pun intended), upcoming California legislation offers the first steps toward a solution.
Cigarette Butts are the #1 thing we find at our Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanups.
Heal the Bay cleanup volunteers have removed a total of 953,756 cigarette butts from beaches in Los Angeles since 2008. Although we are proud of this impact, the pollution problem is never-ending and what is especially concerning is that the filters in cigarettes are made from plastic, which never goes away. Cigarette butts are not only the most prevalent thing we find on our beach cleanups, they are the most littered item on Earth. For an item so small, they have a massive negative impact on marine habitats.
Not People Friendly, Not Planet Friendly
But aren’t cigarette filters an important public health and safety measure? Contrary to popular belief cigarette filters do not offer health protections. In 1964 the Surgeon General judged cigarette filters to be useless in reducing harm to the average smoker and the health benefits of filters have been called “fraudulent” by the World Health Organization.
Cigarette filters are unhealthy for fish and wildlife too. When cigarette butts with filters are thrown onto the street, they make their way through the storm drain system that flows out to the ocean, carrying the chemicals and toxins found in cigarettes with them. About 90% of filters are made from plastic and end up as micro-plastics in our ocean, which have infiltrated the food web, from fish to humans. Butt, a plan to take single-use plastic filters out of the equation is on the horizon.
Butt, a change is coming!
This year, The Smoking Waste Pollution Prevention Act looks to phase out the sale of single-use, non-rechargeable vaping devices and cigarette/cigar “filters” in California. When our state makes big moves toward change it gives other states the opportunity to follow and before you know it there could be nation-wide change. Use your voice to bring this change to California first. How can you help?
Call or email your California Legislators and ask them to vote YES on AB 1690 at the Assembly Health Committee on March 29 (it takes 3 minutes).
Spread the word and share what you’ve learned on social media using the hashtags #AB1690, #CircularEconomy, and #CAMustLEAD! Most people have no idea that cigarette butts are so detrimental to the environment, but when we share what we know we can empower others to help make change.
2021 was a turning point for environmental legislation in California.
Following a legislative season of major challenges for the environment during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, our assemblymembers and senators were able to push through some exciting new laws and regulations this year to tackle plastic pollution, water quality, and climate change. Despite some successes, there is much more work to be done. Our team of scientists and advocates breaks it down for you below so you can stay in the know.
A Big Win for Water Quality: AB 1066 (Bloom)
This year, Heal the Bay sponsored Assembly Bill 1066 which passed with flying colors through the legislature. We firmly believe that inland water recreation areas, where people swim, boat, and wade in the water, should have the same health protections as coastal areas. AB 1066 takes the first steps toward addressing water quality monitoring disparities between ocean and freshwater sites by requiring that the California Water Quality Monitoring Council develop recommendations for a uniform statewide freshwater monitoring program. Learn more about this bill and what it means for freshwater quality monitoring.
The California Circular Economy Package: Wins for Fighting Plastic Pollution
This year, a suite of bills dubbed the California Circular Economy Package was introduced by a variety of California decision-makers. While not all of the bills made it through the harrowing process to become law, these five did, and they mark some major wins for tackling plastic pollution and toxins in California.
✅ SB 343 (Allen) expands on California’s truthful labeling law and limits the use of the “chasing arrows” symbol to products and packaging that are actually recycled in California, reducing consumer confusion and recycling contamination. ✅ AB 881 (L. Gonzalez) reclassifies mixed plastic exports as disposal instead of recycling while still allowing for truly recyclable plastics to be counted towards our state’s recycling goals. ✅ AB 1276 (Carrillo) requires foodware accessories to only be given to customers upon their explicit request, reducing the waste of “zero-use” plastics like utensils and condiment packets. ✅ AB 1201 (Ting) also requires truthful labeling for compostable products, only allowing the word “compostable” to be used on products and packaging that are truly compostable in California, increasing effective composting and reducing toxic chemicals in packaging materials. ✅ AB 962 (Kamlager) paves the way for refill systems in California by allowing reusable glass bottles to be returned, refilled, and reused as part of California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.
Climate Wins (and losses)
The climate crisis is here. In 2021, numerous extreme weather events across the world brought increased urgency to the issue along with the realization that these “extreme” events will become increasingly more common and will affect each and every one of us. Let’s take a look at the big wins of 2021.
✅ SB 1 (Atkins) formally recognizes sea level rise as an urgent need to be addressed by the California Coastal Commission, establishes cross-agency coordination to tackle sea level rise, and establishes a $100 million grant program for local governments to prepare for rising seas. ✅ Climate Resilience Package included in this year’s state budget invests $15 billion – the largest investment to date – in addressing an array of climate change concerns, including wildfires & forest resilience, rising heat, and sea level rise.
California is leading the charge for addressing climate change in many ways, but still has a long way to go. Let’s take a look at the places where California fell short on addressing the climate crisis.
❌ SB 467 (Limon and Weiner) would have banned oil and gas production across California and required a 2,500-foot buffer between drilling sites and sensitive receptors such as homes and schools. We were devastated to see this bill die in the Senate this year but are working closely with environmental justice groups across the state to tackle this issue with creative solutions. ❌ AB 1395 (Muratsuchi and C. Garcia), also referred to as the California Climate Crisis Act would have set ambitious climate goals for the state, including strict emissions standards and accelerated efforts to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
Other Environmental Wins of 2021
Plastics and Climate Change aren’t the only challenges our communities and environment face. The legislature had a few other successes this year in tackling pollution.
✅ AJR2 (O’Donnell) calls on Congress and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to take action on the recently uncovered dumping of DDT and other waste into the deep ocean between the coast of Los Angeles and Catalina Island. This resolution is a great first step and Heal the Bay looks forward to continued work in 2022 on securing state funding for work on DDT and pushing for a community oversight committee on the issue to ensure transparency and accountability.
✅ SB 433 (Allen) expands the authority of the California Coastal Commission to enforce the 1976 Coastal Act through fines. Previously, the Coastal Commission could only levy fines for violations related to public access but now, with SB 433, the Commission can impose fines for violations related to impacts to wetlands, beaches, and coastal wildlife and waters. Coming on the heels of the devastating oil spill in Orange County, we are thrilled to see increased accountability for those who cause damage to our precious coastal resources.
✅ AB 818 (Bloom) requires clear and conspicuous labeling on disposable wipes that states “DO NOT FLUSH”. All too often, disposable wipes that are not intended to be flushed end up down toilets and in municipal wastewater treatment facilities where they can wreak havoc and cause blockage and spills. Especially after the disastrous sewage spill at the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Center in Los Angeles earlier this year, legislation like this is important to both reduce consumer confusion and protect our local water bodies and wastewater treatment workers from harm.
Looking Forward: 2022
As we plan for the year ahead, we are hoping for a much stronger and more progressive year in passing regulations to tackle the climate crisis and water pollution issues, and we already know some items on the table. Heal the Bay will be strongly supporting these measures:
SB 54 (Allen) is a bill you have heard us mention before – a massive plastic pollution reduction bill that would comprehensively tackle plastics through reduction measures and recycling reform. Next year will be the 4th year this bill is attempting to make its way through and we are committed to supporting it.
The California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative is an initiative eligible for the November 8, 2022 ballot that would enact a massive plastic pollution reduction program, including a “pollution reduction fee” holding producers financially accountable for the pollution they create. Keep an eye out for it on your ballot next year!
With the COVID-19 pandemic still creating a massive public health crisis in California and globally this year, environmental legislation once again struggled to make significant progress. Heal the Bay is prepared and ready to help make up for lost time next year by pushing as hard as we can to pass regulations and laws that reduce production and pollution of plastics, end oil and gas drilling both onshore and on land, and protect our communities, waters, and watersheds from the climate crisis. Stay tuned for how YOU can help us get there.
UPDATE 10/5: Good news – Gov. Newsom signed SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962 into law! Thanks for making your voice heard.
Action Alert! Support Heal the Bay’s top 3 California plastic-reduction bills. Call your reps and help get these environmental bills to the finish line. Learn about the bills, contact your representatives, and use our sample script below.
A few major plastic bills are up for a vote, and we need your help to urge your representatives to vote YES! This year, the California legislature introduced a suite of bills to fight plastic pollution called the Circular Economy Package. While not all of the bills have made it through the long and harrowing process, three are nearing the finish line and are priorities for Heal the Bay. These bills are heading to the floor for a vote, which means we only have a couple weeks left to get them passed! The bills each tackle plastic pollution in a unique way, so let’s break them down.
Senate Bill 343: The Truth in Environmental Advertising Act
Have you ever turned over a plastic cup or container to read the number on the bottom and noticed it’s encircled with a recycling “chasing arrows” symbol, only to then learn that item in fact could not be recycled? Us too, and it’s frustrating. This bill would make that illegal, and only permit the chasing arrows symbol to be used on items that are actually recyclable in California and never as part of a plastic resin identification code (those numbers that tell you what type of plastic the item is made from). SB 343 would help to clarify what items should go in the blue bin, reducing confusion among consumers, contamination, and waste volume while improving diversion rates, meaning less waste is sent to landfill and more is actually recycled.
Assembly Bill 1276: Disposable Foodware Accessories
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all begun relying much more heavily on takeout and delivery to feed ourselves and our loved ones while supporting local restaurants. The downside? Receiving disposable foodware accessories like cutlery, condiment packets, and straws that we don’t need and frequently end up in the trash without ever being used. These items, often made of single-use plastics, are clogging waste facilities and polluting our environment. AB 1276 would require that these food ware accessories only be provided upon explicit request of the customer, so you wouldn’t get them unless you ask.
Assembly Bill 962: California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act
What’s the best way to fight plastic pollution? Tackling the problem from the source. This bill focuses on replacing harmful pollution-causing disposable plastic items with sustainable reusable and refillable alternatives. AB 962 helps pave the way for returnable and refillable beverage bottles in California by allowing glass bottles to be washed and refilled by beverage companies instead of crushed and recycled into new bottles – a much less energy intensive process that encourages reuse and refill. The measure reduces waste and encourages the use of glass bottles over disposable plastic ones.
All of these bills will be up for a vote soon. Call your representatives and urge them to VOTE YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962.
“Hi, my name is __________ and I am a resident of __________ and a constituent of representative__________. As an active member of my community with concerns about plastic pollution, I urge you to vote YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962. As part of the Circular Economy Package, these bills will reduce plastic pollution in my community and protect my public health. Thank you for your time.”
Heal the Bay Intern, Yamileth Urias, explores the nuances of a classic environmental slogan.
As children, we are taught to reduce, reuse, and recycle. At some point in our lives, many forget about the first two R’s, reduce and reuse, and mostly rely on the last R– recycle. As plastic pollution becomes an increasingly alarming issue, we must not forget to reduce and reuse. Here is why that order matters.
How is plastic produced and why should we be worried?
We consume food and water in containers made from fossil fuels! Yes, that’s right. Plastic is made from oil and natural gas. Through polymerization, resins are created, which allows plastics to be molded and shaped under heat and pressure. This video further explains the plastic production process.
Oil and gas industries have only become more powerful in the last century since fossil fuels are crucial in the creation of plastics. Not only do we rely on oil and gas companies for transportation, energy, and heating, but also plastic. However, the fossil fuel industry has encountered a challenge — electric vehicles and renewable energy resources like solar power. As we become more aware of the exploitation of natural resources like fossil fuels, we have made changes to remedy the situation. With the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles and alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuel has decreased, causing oil and gas industries to turn to and invest more in new plastic production. New plastic production is cheaper than using recycled plastics due to weakened oil prices. According to a study by Carbon Tracker, the oil industry plans to spend $400 billion on new plastic and less than $2 billion in reducing plastic waste over the next five years.
The drastic gap in investments in virgin plastic and effort to reduce plastic waste has created a monster that is becoming more difficult to control. Corporations are producing more plastic despite knowing that most of it will not be recycled. According to a 2017 study, we have created 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste since 1950. Only 10% of all plastic waste has ever been recycled. This means that over 90% of plastic produced is waste that ends up polluting our environment, our water, and eventually items we consume. This is why using recycling as our only means to fight plastic pollution simply will not work.
Recycling allows for the continued creation of plastics. The best solution is to reduce plastic use in order to stop the harmful effects plastic has on us, our communities, and the environment. We need a permanent solution that will help us transition from relying on plastic to drastically reducing our plastic use.
There is simply too much plastic produced and we cannot recycle our way out of it. A significant amount of this plastic is single-use plastic that cannot be recycled. 99% of cutlery and plastic plates do not meet the standards to be recycled.
Most of the items we try to recycle are not recycled. Studies have found that only 9% of all plastics produced are recycled.
Plastics are not infinitely recyclable. They are downcycled, meaning it cannot be made into the same thing, unlike glass and aluminum. Each time material is repurposed, it becomes a lower quality that will eventually lose its ability to be recycled.
For these reasons, the best solution is to reduce our plastic use. One of the best ways is to reduce the use of single-use plastics. Out of approximately 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced, 40% are single-use products like plastic bags and cutlery. By reducing our use of plastic, we also reduce the demand for it. In order to fully make our efforts effective, we must reduce our individual plastic-use and pressure companies to change their harmful practices.
Reuse materials around the home
Our lives are not completely plastic-free. We all have plastic items in our homes, and the pandemic has only increased our plastic use. That is okay! If you must use packaging or single-use products, you can always choose a more eco-friendly option that is biodegradable. This includes FSC-certified paper, wheat straw or locally-sourced materials.
However, that may not always be an option. It is also important to point out that sustainable products can be expensive. Not everyone can afford to keep buying $50 reusable bottles and filters because the water in their neighborhood is not safe to drink. This is why reusing is the next best action to partake in. You can continue with your plastic-reduction efforts by reusing and repurposing plastics you currently own before disposing of them. This can be done by using a plastic tub of butter to store other food items in your fridge. Another popular usage for plastic containers includes storing away things around your homes like a sewing kit or hair ties and pins. Other items like old toothbrushes can be used as tools to clean hard-to-reach surfaces. There are many ways to get creative and upcycle plastic products you currently own.
Recycle when there is no other alternative
Simply because there are better alternatives to recycling does not mean that we should stop all recycling efforts. According to a study by Pew Trusts, the plastic in our oceans is expected to nearly triple from 11 million tonnes to 29 million tonnes in the next 20 years. Plastic pollution has rapidly increased over the years and it will only get worse in the next couple of decades. This means that over the next 20 summers, oceans will become increasingly more polluted affecting wildlife and the coastal environment as we know it. The plastic pollution crisis is so big that any effort is better than no effort.
It is also important to point out that the world is a unique situation that has disrupted plastic reduction efforts. People all over the world increased their plastic use due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 briefly helped the environment by reducing transportation emissions, but it also caused long-term damages with the massive increase in plastic use. Consumption of single-use plastic increased somewhere between 250-300% during COVID-19. Almost 30% of this spike in single-use plastic is attributed to personal protective equipment (PPE). There is nothing wrong with being cautious and looking out for one’s health, so if reducing or reusing plastic is not an option, the next best thing is to recycle when possible. With that in mind, it is crucial to practice plastic reduction efforts in a hierarchical order. Click here for more ideas on how to reuse and recycle items around your home.
One simple way to reduce plastic use starts with takeout. Next time you are ordering takeout, consider requesting no plastic cutlery or drinking your beverage without a straw and using utensils from home instead. You can also take action by supporting the takeout extras on-request initiative. Due to COVID-19, takeout orders have increased and so has the use of single-use plastic. Sign the petition asking legislators to support #SkipTheStuff. You can also take action by sending an email to DoorDash to #CutOutCutlery. Through this campaign, we can encourage food delivery apps to change their default plastic cutlery option and move to a request-based option.
For more guidance on how you can repurpose and recycle items around your home, conduct a waste audit. This guide on waste audits is the perfect way to reevaluate your home waste, plastic usage and find creative ways to repurpose items. It’s the perfect activity just in time for spring cleaning that will also keep you busy during the quarantine.
About the author
Yamileth is a graduating senior at the University of Southern California studying public relations and political science. Her internship with Heal the Bay communications encompasses branding, research and social media. Growing up in a coastal town sparked her passion for environmental conservation, environmental justice and marine life protection. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with recipes, gardening and sewing.
We’re celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by shining the spotlight on five environmentalists who inspire us.
Women of color are impacted by environmental issues like water pollution and climate change impacts at disproportionate rates as a result of systemic inequity and injustice.1 Racism and a lack of access to education, economic status, and health resources often leave women and people of color out of the conversations and decisions that impact them the most, specifically about land use, natural resources, and environmental policy.
Despite these challenges, women of color continue to create powerful and lasting change in their own communities and abroad.
We thank the environmentalists and activists who continue to fight for what is right despite facing opposition for their bold ideas and for simply being who they are. Women and girls are leaders in their communities and agents of change. Supporting and listening to them will benefit the health of our planet and people for generations to come.
Get to know five environmentalists who have an inspiring legacy of activism.
Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011), Kenya
Founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over 51 million trees, Professor Maathai focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights. She studied biology in her undergraduate and graduate school programs and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for her vast contributions to sustainable development.
Berta Cáceres was an indigenous environmental justice activist and grassroots leader who created the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH) in Honduras. She fought courageously against illegal and harmful mining and logging as well as the construction of a dam that would cut off water, food and medicine for the indigenous Lenca people. Cáceres Flores was tragically murdered in 2016, sparking international outrage. The Cáceres family continues to demand justice for this corrupt violation of human rights. 2
Isatou Ceesay is known as the Queen of Recycling in The Gambia, and rightfully so. Though she was kept from finishing school, she created the Njai Recycling and Income Generation Group, which turns plastic bag waste into purses, creating revenue streams for local women. Ceesay also educates and empowers women through environmental advocacy.
Winona LaDuke (b. 1959), White Earth Indian Reservation
Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, LaDuke is an environmentalist and political activist with Indigenous communities. She focuses on sustainable development, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental justice. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States dedicated to recovering original land and maintaining tribal food, water, and energy rights. Follow Winona on Twitter and Instagram.
Vanessa Nakate founded The Rise Up Movement and uses her voice and platform to share stories about activists in Africa who are striking due to inaction against the climate crisis. Recently, she spoke at the COP25 event in Spain (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) and joined dozens of youth climate activists from around the world to publish a letter to attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos urging them to take immediate steps to prevent further harm. Follow Vanessa on Twitter and Instagram.
About the author: Mariana Estrada is a digital advocacy intern at Heal the Bay. She grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where she enjoys a lively community of close-knit families and great food. She became interested in environmental issues like air quality at an unusually young age due to living in the city. Estrada’s area of focus is combining humanities and environmental issues to create effective and meaningful storytelling that renders real results. She studies English Literature and double-minors in Environmental Systems and Society and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.
1 Gender and climate change-induced migration: Proposing a framework for analysis. Author Namrata Chindarkar. Published by School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. Published on 22 June 2012. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254496452_Gender_and_climate_change-induced_migration_Proposing_a_framework_for_analysis 2 Berta Cáceres: 2015 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America. Published by The Goldman Environmental Prize. Retrieved from https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/berta-caceres/
Funcionarios electos de Los Angeles están tomando acción legislativa para reducir la basura que se genera con la comida para llevar tras un gran incremento en el consumo del plástico de un solo uso. ¿Pero qué significa “Deja el desperdicio”? ¿Y cómo ayuda a luchar contra la contaminación por plástico? Vamos a verlo.
Deja el desperdicio es el último empujón legislativo de Heal the Bay junto a la coalición Reusable LA. #DejaElDesperdicio requeriría que los extras de la comida para llevar y a domicilio — como los utensilios de un solo uso, popotes, condimentos, servilletas y demás — fuesen facilitados a petición del usuario. Si los necesita, los puede tener. Y si no, no hace falta desperdiciar.
El consumo de plástico de un solo uso se ha disparado debido al COVID-19, incluyendo aquí en Los Angeles, donde nuestros queridos restaurantes locales se han visto forzados a depender principalmente de los pedidos para llevar y a domicilio. El consumo de plásticos de un solo uso se ha incrementado entre un 250% y un 300% desde que comenzó la pandemia, con un aumento de un 30% de basura atribuido en parte a utensilios de usar y tirar. En toda la nación, billones de accesorios para la comida se tiran cada año, muchos sin haberse utilizado siquiera. (Muchos de nosotros incluso los guardamos en el temido cajón de los extras, esperando utilizarlos algún día).
La amplia mayoría de estos objetos de un solo uso no se pueden reciclar. Suman a la crisis de basura plástica, ensucian nuestros vecindarios, ríos, el océano, y atascan los vertederos. El uso de combustibles fósiles para producir objetos de plástico que ni siquiera se usan es lo último que necesitamos durante una crisis climática. Estos efectos también presentan problemas de justicia medioambiental, con las comunidades en primera línea sufriendo desproporcionadamente por el cambio climático, la extracción de crudo, y la incineración asociada a plásticos de un solo uso.
Heal the Bay y Reusable LA están abogando por legislar #DejaElDesperdicio en la ciudad y el condado de Los Angeles. En Enero de 2021, los miembros del consejo de la ciudad de Los Angeles Paul Koretz y Paul Krekorian introdujeron una moción para un borrador de ley para #DejaElDesperdicio. Requeriría que en los casos de comida para llevar, servicio a domicilio o servicios de entrega a domicilios de terceros, todos los accesorios estuvieran disponibles únicamente bajo petición. La Junta de Supervisores del Condado de Los Angeles siguió el ejemplo y en Febrero de 2021 pasó una moción similar de forma unánime tras ser introducida por Sheila Kuehl, miembro de la junta.
Esta legislación reconoce que los miembros de la comunidad pueden necesitar pajitas/ popotes/pajillas, utensilios y / u otros accesorios para alimentos de un solo uso. Es crucial que los restaurantes y las aplicaciones de entrega de terceros promuevan y brinden opciones para todos. Este modelo “a pedido” está estructurado intencionalmente para cumplir con todos los requisitos y adaptaciones de la ADA para garantizar un acceso equitativo para disfrutar fácilmente de comidas en el lugar, comida para llevar o entregas en los restaurantes de Los Ángeles. Según esta ordenanza, las empresas pueden proporcionar accesorios para alimentos a los clientes que los soliciten.
Restaurantes y aplicaciones de entrega a domicilio deberían por defecto, no entregar accesorios de un solo uso para los pedidos, a menos que el cliente los solicite. Cambiar a este modelo de accesorios “bajo pedido” elimina basura innecesaria y ahorra dinero a los establecimientos. Los Angeles ha hecho esto antes con los popotes bajo pedido. En un momento en el que los negocios pequeños y los restaurantes están luchando por mantenerse a flote, esta es una solución simple para recortar costes excesivos y contaminación por plástico. Apoyamos estas ordenanzas porque son una solución donde todos ganan, las comunidades de LA, los negocios y el medioambiente.
Contamos con su apoyo para pasar esta ordenanza, así que pase a la acción mediante los enlaces de aquí abajo y manténgase a la escucha para más novedades de #DejaElDesperdicio.
Q: How did you work with Heal the Bay on the book?
A: I first reached out to Heal the Bay in early 2019. I had written The Big Beach Cleanup and was looking to connect with experts regarding fact checking recycling and ocean cleanupfacts. I live in Los Angeles and am familiar with the important work that Heal the Bay does to protect our oceans, so I decided to ask for their help. Nancy Shrodes, the Associate Director of Policy & Outreach, kindly agreed to review my manuscript and offer her feedback. Since then numerous staff members at Heal the Bay have continued to offer assistance, including providing input on additional educational materials for the book as well as generously offering to do a live animal feeding at The Big Beach Cleanup virtual launch event!
Q: What inspired you to write about a beach cleanup?
A: One day while walking with my children, I stopped to pick up a piece of trash that was in our way and toss it in a nearby trashcan. Throwing away that piece of trash sparked endless questions from my ever-curious children. They wanted to know where the trash had come from and how it got there in the first place. We ended up in big conversations around pollution and doing our part to protect the planet.It was on that walk that I decided to write an ocean advocacy story featuring little hands joining together to make big change. I went home that day and wrote the first draft of what would eventually become The Big Beach Cleanup!
Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this book? A: Honestly the most interesting thing I found is how immune we can become to the things that are right in front of us. I have lived and walked around Los Angeles for a long time. I have also cared about the planet and my environmental footprint for a long time, but it wasn’t until I began working on this book that my eyes really opened to how prevalent our pollution problem is and how frequently it is right in front of me on a daily basis. There is no shortage of trash in Los Angeles, not only on our beaches but right on the streets in my very own neighborhood. On my regular walk with my kids we always find trash, even if we have been picking up trash on that same walk the day before. Things get dropped, trash bags aren’t tied properly and more and more we are finding discarded masks and disposable containers. We really need everyone to join together and make conscious changes in order to tackle this growing problem.
Q: Has the book inspired you to make any single-use plastic swaps at home?
A: Writing this book has encouraged my family to look around our home and evaluate our daily waste. We have been replacing individually wrapped items with bulk sizes and make an effort to use refillable containers whenever possible, we have tried to make choices that avoid plastic containers and to purchase less ‘stuff’ (toys, general excess) overall.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from the book? A: My hope is that The Big Beach Cleanup shows readers that big changes begin with small steps. I hope that readers are inspired to think about the changes they want to see in the world, to know that they can make a difference, and are encouraged to join together with those around them to create those changes. I hope they walk away knowing that their hands matter and are needed.
Q: What is your favorite beach in California? A: Every summer since my husband was little his family has spent time in Coronado. When I met my husband, I was warmly welcomed into this tradition and I look forward to spending time at the beach on Coronado island every year. Locally though we love to visit Will Rogers State Beach as it is close to where my in–laws live and they are often able to join us there!
CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again.
Charlotte’s debut picture book, The Big Beach Cleanup, illustrated by Kate Rewse will be published by Albert Whitman in Spring 2021, followed by How to Return a Monster, illustrated by Rea Zhai releasing Fall 2021 with Beaming Books. A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022.