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What Does 4,000+ Tons of Trash Look Like?

A gorgeous vista, waves breaking along the shore, you wiggle sand between your toes and — wait, what’s that? A cigarette butt?

If you spend a day on an L.A. County beach, chances are you’ll come across some of the trash our region dumps into stormwater pipes and shunts out to the ocean.

It sounds unreal, but over 4,000 tons of trash wash up on L.A. County beaches every year. (Go ahead and search for how much 747s, garbage trucks and elephants weigh in comparison. The difference is mind-boggling.)

The garbage that ends up on our iconic coastlines runs the gamut from plastic bags and styrofoam to toxic chemicals and animal waste.

And it’s not just unsightly; some of it can make us sick. According to the L.A. Times, high bacteria in waters can cause an elevated risk of stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes. The risk of contracting these illnesses while swimming or surfing tends to spike after storms, when polluted runoff courses through drains and out to sea.

For our marine life, this pollution and trash can be devastating. Every year, fish, marine mammals, and seabirds are killed after mistakenly eating garbage and other toxins, or ensnaring themselves in plastics.

That’s why it’s so important for us to capture and clean rain and other water before it has a chance to spoil our beaches. Updating our stormwater infrastructure can help reduce the amount of dirty, toxic runoff that ends up on our shores.  

By keeping trash, chemicals, pollutants, and other toxins out of storm drains, L.A. County can better protect local ecosystems and the health of residents.