Pixel Tracker

Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 10:56 pm | Fair 46º


Serendipity: Cleaning Up Our Act to Reduce Sea of Trash

From recycling plastic bags to helping rid the beach of garbage, the adage think globally, act locally is true.

Remember when the hardest thing to figure out about trash was whose turn it was to take it out? We Santa Barbarans try to shop with reusable bags, buy items in recyclable packaging, separate our trash and appropriately dispose of electronics, batteries, paints and other harmful discards. So I was perturbed the other day when I read a Los Angeles Times article postulating whether people should pay per can to toss their trash. I’m surprised any municipal government still would encourage unsustainable trash production by charging a set fee for limitless trash. 

Karen Telleen-Lawton

At least they’re talking about it. Reducing, reusing and recycling have at last become vogue issues. A little Dumpster diving will reveal what’s new in trash.

Locally, there’s the increasingly popular annual Coastal Cleanup Day, on Sept. 20. The beach beautification is organized by Santa Barbara County (visit www.LessIsMore.org/coast). Last year, more than 550 volunteers scoured 17 local beaches of more than 1,600 pounds of trash and 1,000 pounds of recyclables. This year, sign up to help on your favorite beach. If it’s not listed, you can become its captain.

While ridding the beach of unsightly trash is pleasing to our eyes, the biggest beneficiaries are our most vulnerable members: children, marine birds and mammals, who ingest or are injured or even killed by trash. That’s why Californians are working on a way to affect beach garbage before it’s deposited. California Bill 2058 encourages us to bring reusable bags to the grocery by requiring purchase of plastic carryout bags for a quarter each.

We use 19 billion carryout plastic bags annually, carrying them their first micro step of a 1,000-year life. Many end up in the ocean. Moreover, plastic bags are made from petroleum and natural gas, contributing to energy dependence and global warming. Even if you’re undecided on the paper-vs.-plastic debate, there’s no doubt that a reduction in throwaways can only be helpful. Nevertheless, an Aug. 4 vote suspended consideration of Assembly Bill 2058 into the Legislature’s recess.

When Californians fail to reduce plastics or collect the ones we use, the ocean turns them into someone else’s problem. Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, designated by President Bush, may be the next stop.

Chris Woolaway, who coordinates the Ocean Conservancy’s “Get the Drift and Bag It” international coastal cleanup, says ocean currents bring an estimated 57 tons of garbage and discarded fishing gear annually to the 10 islands and the waters surrounding them. That amounts to more than 70 beach cleanups.

This catastrophic situation was supposed to ameliorate with the monument designation in 2006, but this year the debris cleanup budget was slashed to $400,000 from $2.1 million in 2005. There have been piecemeal additions, but the total amount slated for 2009 is little more than 25 percent of the original budget, far less than can keep up with new additions from California and other sources.

Somehow that seems to be a feature of our legislative system: proposing far reaching, once-and-for-all-sounding bills, then letting them languish in committee. Or they are passed and slashed: the funding cut after the spotlight has moved elsewhere. This situation isn’t sustainable for waste reduction or anything else. What is sustainable is the now-old adage to think globally and act locally.

See you at the beach!

Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations supporting sustainability. Graze her writing and excerpts from Canyon Voices: the Nature of Rattlesnake Canyon at www.canyonvoices.com.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Meet Your Realtor Sponsored by Village Properties

Photo of Elizabeth Wagner
Elizabeth Wagner
"I typically do whatever it takes to properly expose the property and get it out to the widest possible audience."

Full Profile >

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >