It’s summertime and the ocean is finally warming up! What is a better way to spend a sunny summer day than to head to the beach and maybe catch a few waves?

As the CEO and lead surf instructor of Surf eCo Surf School, I spend a lot of time out in the ocean and it is a beautiful place to work, but I have noticed over the past few years that the beaches are no longer as beautiful as they used to be. For those of you who went to the beach after July 4th, you probably saw what I saw n miles of plastic water bottles, toys, Styrofoam cups, beer cans, and a variety of other objects left on the sand.

Unfortunately, it is no longer just the July 4th weekend that is polluting the beaches and our oceans. I hold beach clean-ups with my surf class participants every week at Swami’s in Encinitas. While this beach is not as crowded (steep stairs and poor parking), my class participants find enough trash in our small area to fill two Trader Joe’s reusable bags every week. In the past month I must have seen 40+ pieces of plastic (plastic wrap, bottles, bags, balloons) floating in the ocean n waist-deep where I stand and help out my class participants.

Have Americans become lazier? Or are people expecting others to clean up for them? While Surfrider’s “Morning After Mess” is a necessary event, it also promotes the fact that you can leave trash on the beach and it will be picked put the next day, if it hasn’t been taken out by the tide already. There are no regulations for littering on the beach. People are not held responsible for their actions. The sad thing is that the beach is one of the most beautiful environmental areas left for everyone to enjoy.

According to Surfrider’s “Rise Above Plastics” Campaign, 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds are killed every year from plastic waste. Not only are we polluting a precious environment, we are killing animals in the process.

How do we get people to take responsibility for their actions? I’m working hard to promote environmental awareness in my classes, but that’s a slow change (one surfer at a time). The unfortunate dilemma is that people never see where their plastic waste ends up —they never see the animals choking on plastic bags or the “plastic island” that has accumulated out in the ocean. So what’s the solution? More trash cans on the beach? Outlawing littering on the beach? Any reasonable suggestions?

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