By: Nir Barnea, Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program
On April 21, 2018, Earth Day was celebrated with beach cleanups in many places, but for the Grassroots Garbage Gang in Washington State’s Long Beach Peninsula, it was an especially important day— a celebration of the 50th Grassroots Garbage Gang community-organized beach cleanup, representing a remarkable achievement.
Beach cleanups on the Long Beach Peninsula began in 1971, when the Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, along with support by state agencies and local organizations, started their Shore Patrol and marine debris removal. Around the year 2000, community volunteers formed the Grassroots Garbage Gang and joined the effort to clean up the beautiful Long Beach Peninsula beaches. Organizing three cleanups a year— in January, April (Earth Day), and July 5th– the dedicated volunteers of the Grassroots Garbage Gang have removed hundreds of tons of marine debris over the years. In addition, the group has reached out to the community and visitors with a strong message to prevent marine debris and help reduce it.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program has supported these outreach and cleanup efforts, and when the former NOAA Administrator, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, looked for a place to celebrate community dedication to reduce marine debris, the Grassroots Garbage Gang graciously hosted her and shared their marine debris reduction experience.
Fifty cleanups don’t happen spontaneously. They happen thanks to the dedication of community members who organize them, organizations who provide support, and thanks to the many volunteers who participate.