Do Sweat The Small Stuff


By Joyce Amaro, LA Stormwater

I honestly didn’t expect to find much trash on the impromptu “micro community clean-up” my six-year old son and I did in our neighborhood a few days ago in honor of the upcoming California Coastal Cleanup Day on September 20. We live in a part of southeastern Alhambra historically known as Ramona Park, and in the 14 years I’ve lived there, I have rarely noticed trash in the streets or gutters. I live in a fairly clean part of Southern California – or at least that’s what I thought.

So, imagine my surprise when, after walking just a block through my “clean” neighborhood, my son and I filled half a paper grocery bag with a dozen candy wrappers tangled in bushes, a few used tissues shredded into teensy fingernail-sized pieces, a few dozen scraps of paper ranging from discarded lottery tickets to fading grocery store receipts, a Styrofoam container wrapped in a plastic bag and then stuffed behind a tree and more than 80 cigarette butts. Yup! We found more than 80 cigarette butts lurking in the gutter, the parkways and the sidewalk cracks within a block of our house.

As we walked and my son, “my trash spotter,” pointed out the almost microscopic pieces of trash that he wanted me to pick up, I found myself resenting the fact that I was picking up pieces of paper that were the size of a dime. I also found myself thinking, “I don’t have to pick up that piece. It’s not big enough to cause problems.” Suddenly I understood how smokers think…“This is just a cigarette butt. It’s not big enough to cause problems.” Oh, but they are and they do! Since Coastal Cleanup Day’s inception, volunteers have picked up more than six million cigarette butts here in California. That number is staggering! Cigarette butts are the #1 item collected, accounting for a whopping 39% of all trash items cleaned off of beaches and out of waterways. And, once cigarette butts reach the ocean, the toxic chemicals that leach out of the discarded filter can prove lethal to marine life.

California Coastal Clean Up Day is a great way to get involved, but it’s not the only day that you can take action! What do you think you would find in your neighborhood? Take a short walk around your block and let us know what you pick up. You may be surprised. I guarantee you that it’ll make you realize that we do need to sweat the small stuff.  


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