Surfrider is fed up with plastic pollution. It’s ugly and can impact wildlife that we love. Plastic pollution in the ocean typically starts as litter on the beach, streets or sidewalk. Sometimes there are more direct sources. After discovering a new type of plastic litter on the beach last year, Surfrider volunteers traced it back to fireworks from the County Fair. We were happy to work with the Ventura County Fair Board (VCFB) and the fireworks company to ensure less plastic was used this year (2016) and that a more thorough site clean-up process was put in place. We are all aiming for zero plastic litter next year.
The plastic debris was originally identified by a Surfrider member in August of 2015. It took a week or so to figure out these plastic pieces were firework debris resulting from the Ventura County Fair fireworks that are launched near Surfers’ Point over the ocean each evening of the annual fair. Surfrider members began to monitor the situation and collected a significant amount of debris the morning after the last night of the Fair.
The Chapter compiled a report of their findings and shared it with the CEO of the Ventura County Fair and the Board. The VCFB was supportive and scheduled a meeting with the fireworks vendor to discuss ways to eliminate the plastic debris. The outcome of the meeting was positive and 3 specific actions were identified to eliminate the debris:
- Removal of all plastic bags and plastic components of the fireworks prior to launching them.
- Tie off the ignition wire, preventing the wire from flying loose with the shell as it launches.
- Implement a better procedure for morning site checks and clean-up
With the understanding that the above actions would be put in place, Surfrider volunteers surveyed the firework launch area and surrounding beach area each morning of the 2016 Fair to assess the effectiveness of the action plan.
Very little debris was observed the first few days of the fair. However, a few days into the fair, volunteers began finding plastic pieces near the launch site, at the tide line, and in kelp beds. The number of plastic pieces increased over time and was of concern because they were non-biodegradable, can be confused with food by marine life, and appeared to be increasing in number over time.
Surfrider immediately communicated the findings to the fireworks company and the CEO of the Fair. The fireworks company was quick to respond and identified the plastic pieces as being from the fireworks and immediately extended their clean-up efforts the following morning and investigated the source of the plastic.
Sadly, because the plastic from the fireworks goes directly into the ocean, we are continuing to find plastic firework debris washing up on our beaches months after the Fair has ended. We will continue to monitor this issue and to work with the VCFB to protect our beaches and ocean!