Members of Santa Monica High School’s Team Marine helped collect 12.5 pounds of plastic trash from a Venice storm drain during a beach clean-up December 20th.

The three environmental team members visited the storm drain at the end of Rose Avenue in Venice as part of an effort to examine plastic pollution near stagnant pools of storm drain water, said Benjamin Kay, a teacher with Team Marine. The students collected debris consisting of 128 colored wrappers, 127 Styrofoam pieces, 101 clear wrappers, 68 bottle caps, 35 straws, 23 miscellaneous hard plastic pieces, 14 food containers and lids, nine grocery store bags, five water bottles, and two utensils.

A more detailed study was performed at the Pico-Kenter storm drain, where students gathered 1,081 plastic bottle caps, 240 straws, and 30 utensils from a debris area around the storm drain pool, Kay said. For the Pico-Kenter site, Team Marine also sorted a random selection of plastic pollutants into categories to help identify exactly what is coming out of the storm drains and will be entering the ocean upon the next flush.

“We identified that plastic bottle caps are a huge part of urban runoff and the plastic debris zone around storm drains,” Team Marine member Eileen Flores said.

Team member Kou Collins added, “Looking at all the plastic disgusts me and makes me feel bad because it shows our apathy toward our environment. In class we studied how plastic is non-biodegradable, and pieces are mistaken for food by animals, such as albatross birds, which die from starvation, since the plastic clogs their bellies and leaves little room for fish.”

Kay said the students’ research is different from past beach clean-up studies because it focuses on the narrow damp area around a storm drain pool, an area whose “contents get scoured by urban runoff when it rains and get catapulted into the ocean.”

Team Marine’s assistant coach Renee Klein adds, “These storm drains are direct taxis for plastic pollutants, many of which float and either get washed back onto the shore or make their way into the North Pacific Gyre.”