Beach cleanup photo gallery

By Sana Kamdar, 16, Walnut HS
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At first glance, the beach didn’t look dirty at all. I was at Venice Beach with other teen staffers from L.A. Youth for a beach cleanup organized by the environmental group Heal the Bay. But then I saw a Styrofoam cup embedded between the mounds of rocks on the beach. I tugged on the edge of the cup as hard as I could, but it wouldn’t budge.

As we moved farther along, we found pieces of Styrofoam spread out like confetti over the sand. We had to dig into the sand a little to see them, but they were there. The Heal the Bay representative had told us that these little pieces of Styrofoam and other small pieces of plastic are what actually do the most harm to marine life. Sea creatures eat the Styrofoam but their stomachs cannot digest it so they think they are full, and they can die from starvation. 

We picked up as much trash as we could, mostly little stuff, but I was hoping to find empty cans and bottles so I could say that I picked up a lot of trash. Then I saw someone with a full Heal the Bay trash bag and I had to see what was inside. Fern Altobelli, 19, from Mount St. Mary’s College found everything from a pair of old jeans and a brown belt to headphones and a couple batteries. It made me angry with the people who left their things behind without a care for what effects they might have on the ocean habitat.

As the day went on, the beach became crowded with more volunteers. I walked toward the north end of Venice Beach and saw two guys picking up a pink sandal that had been left behind by a beachgoer. They said they were volunteering for their community service requirements for Campbell Hall High School in North Hollywood, and what better way to do that than spending a day at the beach with your friends?

Inside their bag I saw that pink sandal, along with cigarette butts, a couple of plastic bottles and a Starbucks coffee cup. Bryan Valenti, 17, from Campbell Hall HS, said that since the ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, it is important that we help preserve marine life because a healthy ocean helps us survive. I’d never really realized that marine life contributes so much to our lives, but when people carelessly dump their trash on roads and sidewalks, it drains into the gutters and storm sewers, ending up in one place—the ocean. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that a major cause of the unhealthy conditions of beaches and coastal areas is “polluted urban runoff”—such as trash and food waste that gets into the storm drainage system—not litter on the beach.

By noon, the sun was shining and the temperature was rising, and I was about ready to jump into the water. The volunteers that had spread out across Venice Beach were coming back to throw away the trash they had collected. I could not believe how much trash there was.

Volunteers collected more than 135 bags of trash, Eveline Bravo from Heal the Bay said. The beach cleanup was a lot of fun. What more could you want besides beach, sun and friends? I had a good time, and I felt like I made a difference.

Heal the Bay holds Nothin’ But Sand beach cleanups on the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. Cleanup locations rotate throughout the year among county beaches. For more information and to find out when and where the next cleanups are, go to and click on the “Cleanups” link.

Click here to read Se’s story about why global warming matters to him and why he thinks everyone, including other teens, should care.

Click here to read about some students’ attempts to be better environmental travelers and get around Los Angeles without using a car.