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Life is a beach, keep it clean

Did you know that approximately 8 million tons of plastic enter the global oceans every year?

This has a terrible impact on nearly 600 species of marine animals, but volunteers are doing something about it in Southern Oregon.

The Oregon Spring Beach Cleanup will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday March 24.

The cleanup is organized by SOLVE, a Portland-based nonprofit with a mission to bring Oregonians together to improve the environment.

Since 1986, the group has held beach cleanup events twice a year, and the cleanups benefit both people and wildlife, says Joy Hawkins, program manager at SOLVE. “We started in 1986 with 800 volunteers and now can count on 5,000.”

SOLVE estimates that over the past decade volunteers have kept more than 4,000 tons of debris from entering Oregon’s waterways and the Pacific Ocean.

Hawkins says that even when it storms during the cleanups — as it has been known to do — volunteers stay and help.

“They’re very dedicated,” she says.

Volunteers can choose from among 45 beach cleanup sites from Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria to Harris Beach in Brookings. Volunteers can register and pick their beach at solveoregon.org, or call 503-844-9571.

Hawkins stressed that the Southern Oregon coast needs more volunteers.

Here are some tips if you decide to participate:

• Dress for rain or shine and wear sturdy shoes. SOLVE will provide bags and gloves. However, volunteers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bucket/bag, gloves and water bottle to help reduce plastic waste.

• Don’t forget about the small stuff. The most common items found on Oregon beaches are tiny bits of plastic and cigarette butts, which are harmful to shore birds and marine life. Bring an old colander to sift the sand for these items.

• Ocean shores can be dangerous, so avoid logs near or in the water, stay clear of marine mammals, and never turn your back on the ocean. Keep dogs on a leash and steer away from restricted Snowy Plover nesting areas — look for signs.

• If you find any hazardous material, alert your beach captain.