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On March 23rd, over 600 volunteers removed over 4,500 kilos of trash and debris (more than 750 bags of trash), cleaning and restoring beaches, river mouths, and estuaries along more than 34 kilometers of Chilean coastline.

For the second year, Save The Waves Coalition and the Maule Itata Coastkeeper’s campaign “Unidos Por Aguas Limpias” attracted hundreds of volunteers to tackle the growing problem of coastal marine debris in Chile. The locations were spread through out the country, stretching from the northern beaches of Arica to the southern most cleanup site on the ragged coastline of Carelmapu. In total, 28 locations in 10 different regions of Chile took action to create a cleaner, healthier, and trash-free Chilean coast.

The number of volunteers varied from site to site, with the largest turnout in the southern city of Constitución of over 110 people. Volunteers ranged in age from 4 to 69, but all agreed that protecting and preserving the coast of Chile for future generations was a necessity. One young volunteer at La Rinconada, Cobquecura described their participation by saying, “I like to surf and I live next to the sea. I am always campaigning to keep the beaches clean.”

Many volunteer site coordinators used the cleanup as an opportunity to celebrate a day at the beach. Planned activities like surfing, environmental discussions and sharing food were included in the schedule, in addition to the obvious goal of picking up trash. Almost all volunteers described themselves as living near the beach or visiting the beach regularly and were disappointed that more beach users do not take their trash with them after they visit. The most common pieces of trash at each site were cigarette butts, plastic bags and plastic bottles, but the items found also included needles, fishing nets, underwear, a plaster leg, and a grill.

Aiding in this year’s successful cleanup was the support of several local and international sponsors. Virutex generously donated over 1,000 trash bags and over 800 pairs of gloves for volunteers. Patagonia and Fletcher Chouinard Designs both contributed t-shirts for volunteers at the five main clean-up sites, and many Chilean businesses and NGO’s including Limpiando Playas, Lafken Rootsurf Chile, SOS Surf, ChileSurf, Surfers Paradise, Olas Limpias, ChicasRiders, Emisora Radial Arenas Stocked, Municipalidad de Pelluhue, Cura3Puntas, Maule Wear, Centro Estetico Levinia Manfredini, NanoSurf, Municipalidad de Pichilemu, Curanipetur, Municipalidad de Cobquecura, Guru Contact, Fiscalía Del Medio Ambiente, Radio Ambrosio, AG Turismo Maule Sur, Municipalidad de Juan Fernandez, Municipalidad de Constitucion, Municipalidad de Chanco, Municipalidad de Navidad, Los Robles NO, Valpo Surf Project,, Buchu’s Hostal y Pizza helped publicize the event online and through social media.

Team Antofagasta, making waves in 2013. Photo: Romina Contreras

As in 2012, the clean-ups were planned for five iconic places related to surfing in Chile: Pichilemu, Punta de Lobos, Loanco, Curanipe, and Cobquecura. In 2013, interested communities, individuals, surf clubs, NGO’s, youth groups, and private companies throughout Chile joined the campaign, organizing 23 additional volunteer led clean-ups in the coastal towns of Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, La Serena, Con-Con, Quintero, Valparaiso, Horcon, Puertecillo, Iloca, Isla Robinson, Navidad, Constitución (2 locations), Buchupureo, Pichicuy, Mariscadero, Puerto Saavedra, Burca, Purema, Mehuín, and Carelmapu.

“Unidos Por Aguas Limpias is a movement that demonstrates how many Chileans are committed to facing the problem of coastal marine debris in an active and organized way that leads by example. We must propose new solutions and together try to understand how society as a whole will face this challenge ” said Rodrigo de la O, Director of Maule Itata Coastkeeper.

“We hope that “United for Clean Water” will continue next year, expanding to also work on addressing water quality issues and conservation in coastal and marine ecosystems. An integral part of the campaign will continue to be the emphasis on stewardship of natural resources by local communities”, said Gavin Comstock, Save The Waves Coalition’s Operations and Program Manager.

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