Beach cleanups remove 500 pounds of trash after holiday weekend
Special to the Sierra Sun
After a busy Fourth of July weekend, The League to Save Lake Tahoe set out on their annual beach cleanup. The League has been hosting the lake cleanup since 2013.
This year, The League hosted the same cleanup but had to follow safety precautions by instituting a RSVP policy, volunteer cap, social distancing and reducing sites to three different cleanup locations: Kings Beach, Nevada Beach and Regan Beach. Twelve out of the 136 volunteers went to remote locations.
“The turnout was wonderful and we removed a lot of litter,” said Marilee Movius, community engagement manager for The League.
The crew picked up a total of 3,495 cigarette butts, 747 bottle caps, 1,245 food wrappers and 6,515 pieces of plastic that included broken down plastic cups, plastic cutlery, styrofoam food containers and straws. The crew picked up just shy of 500 pounds of trash from the three beaches.
Movius said the amount of cigarette butts were a concern because most of them contain plastic filters that break down into smaller pieces that can leach chemicals which are harmful to the environment and wildlife.
“Even with fewer volunteers we picked up near the same amount of microtrash,” said Movius.
Microtrash is a problem because the smaller the pieces of plastic can more easily find their way into the lake.
“We know microplastics are in the lake,” she said. “This is a reminder to use reusables and to avoid single-use plastic to prevent plastic pollution.”
Movius said that they also found a ton of food waste which degrades slowly and can also be harmful to wildlife. “Pack out what you pack in and leave it better than you found it,” she said.
Movius said it’s important for everyone to be responsible everyday. People can show what “good” they are doing by posting a picture on social media using the hashtag #Tahoebluegooder.
another 500 pounds pull out of from Donner lake
Another local nonprofit, Clean Up the Lake, made sure to get out this month as well to help reduce plastic pollution.
While Clean Up the Lake usually focuses on Tahoe, this month their focus was on Donner Lake in preparation for their big project next year at Tahoe.
Officially starting on Monday, July 6, Clean Up the Lake targeted 37 public piers at Donner Lake and this week conducted an underwater scuba and beach cleanup for a three-mile stretch (see cover story).
Clean Up the Lake along with volunteers planned a cleanup to not only clean the lake, but also to collect data from the trash as a pilot program for their planned 72-mile cleanup of Lake Tahoe that was postponed due to COVID-19. Clean up the Lake did the test cleanup on July 2 after being cleared from the city, state and after ensuring a COVID-19 policy with safety protocols.
After three dives with a relatively small team of four divers, they have already removed 557 pounds of trash from the quarter-mile of east Donner Lake. Each dive is three to four hours.
“We need to find better [trash] management moving forward,” said Colin West, founder of Clean Up the Lake. “It really needs to be looked at.”
Clean Up the Lake has permits for Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake and has been looking into obtaining one for Fallen Leaf Lake after hearing that there is possibly a field of old tires.
Along with hundreds of pounds of miscellaneous trash removed, West says that the most common trash items are single-use plastics like cups and chip liners along with hats, golf balls, and West says he has picked up at least 50 tennis balls in the last two days. West said he would sit on his knees at the bottom of the lake and could grab at least seven beer cans.
“It’s bad,” said West, describing beneath Donner Lake surface. West even compared the below-surface trash problem in Donner Lake to looking similar to parts of Thailand. “Either way, [the trash] comes from recreating.”
Cheyanne Neuffer is a Staff Writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Unless a series of storms blankets the Sierra Nevada with snow, California and Nevada are facing critically dry years.