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Save Our Shores Executive Director Laura Kasa rejoices in a less trashy Fourth of July weekend. Now she urges us to eliminate plastic waste. "Come on, Santa Cruz, you're a cool town, let's make turning away from plastics a part of that too."

By Laura Kasa

SAVE OUR SHORES' July Fourth "Pollution Prevention Is Patriotic" efforts dramatically decreased the amount of trash left behind on Santa Cruz County beaches after the fun and often rowdy Fourth of July celebrations. Last year on July 5, a total of 15,000 pounds of trash from seven Santa Cruz beaches was collected.

This year, however, with the help of State Parks maintenance crews and GreenWaste Recovery, in total over 12,000 pounds were removed from our beaches on July 4 and 5. For this year's effort, Save Our Shores partnered with the Clean Beaches Coalition partners Surfrider, Pack Your Trash, Ecology Action and O'Neill Sea Odyssey to cover seven of the county's most impacted beaches, including Seabright, Santa Cruz Main Beach, Twin Lakes, Seacliff, Rio Del Mar, Davenport Main Beach and Panther Beach.

Of those 12,000 pounds of refuse collected July 4-5, our volunteers removed 2,300 pounds in just three hours on July 5. SOS has been involved in July 5 beach cleanups in Santa Cruz County for over 10 years and was excited to see this year's pollution prevention efforts make a real impact. That is 2,300 less pounds of trash that would have ended up in the North Pacific Gyre, adding to that mass of trash in the ocean that is already twice the size of Texas.

The solution to the problem of marine debris is much simpler than most people think. Since we know that approximately 80 percent of the trash in the gyre is plastic, it makes sense to transition to products that biodegrade.

What sense does it make anyway to use something for five minutes, like a plastic cup, that then stays on our planet forever? There are biodegradable replacements for hot and cold cups, lids, plates and bowls, to-go containers, straws, stirrers, cutlery and bags. We don't need to develop the technology and invent these new products--they already exist--and there are many local suppliers that carry them. All we need to do is demand them. We did this passing the Styrofoam bans in Scotts Valley, Watsonville, Capitola and the city and county of Santa Cruz.

But did you know that some restaurants are still trying to use Styrofoam? If you see any restaurant using Styrofoam, please call our office to report it--it's illegal. And if your favorite restaurant is using other plastic disposable items, ask them to switch to biodegradable items. If just a handful of customers pointed this out, we could create the change we need in this community.

We need a grassroots effort to say that we don't want plastics in our ocean. We know plastics are toxic, that they can kill marine life and that they leach chemicals that endanger human health as well. Why can't we make it cool to always carry your own canvas bag to the store, cool to carry your metal water bottle and refill at water fountains instead of carrying a plastic water bottle that is thrown out after one use, cool to carry a bamboo utensil in your pocket instead of using a plastic fork for one meal?

Come on, Santa Cruz, you're a cool town, let's make turning away from plastics a part of that too. Do something today to help save our ocean. Join the Bring Your Own campaign on the Save Our Shores website:

Laura Kasa is the executive director of Save our Shores.

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