“Trashtopia” Is a Symptom

Floatopia Brings an Excess of Garbage and a Lack of Accountability

There are certain things that could only happen in I.V. Floatopia is one of them. About 12,000 people packed the beach April 4 for the celebration. Students holding kayaks held together with wooden boards, kiddie pools, and just about any floatation device you can imagine headed down to the beach between Devereux and Campus Point to get their party on. I.V. was a scene with cars parked every which way, and throngs of people dragging their coolers of beer down toward the beach. Try having a 12,000-strong spontaneous party at East Beach – I don’t think so.

Cat Neushul

Overall, it seemed fairly calm. Surfers and beach goers one hundred yards down the beach could see, but not even hear, the revelry. Heading downtown in the evening, I watched as the partiers dragged their deflated boats, and inebriated selves, back to their apartments. It appeared peaceful. The news reports, however, tell a different story. It’s clear that there were problems including injuries, crime, ocean rescues, and trash – lots of it.

This event set a spotlight on two of the main problems I.V. faces: trash and accountability. After the thousands left the beach, their bottles and other refuse remained. Some organizations went down to the beach afterward for a cleanup. They took away a lot of the trash, but could only begin to solve the problem.

I.V. is not set up to properly dispose of trash. There are trash cans in the parks and other public areas, but there aren’t recycling bins, and there is nowhere along the beach to throw anything away. This means that you have to take up from the beach whatever you take down. Overall, not such a hard thing to do, but when you’re talking about thousands of people with their beer bottles, empty chip bags, and Ding Dong wrappers, one little trash can at the top of the stairs just isn’t going to cut it, even if everyone packed up their trash. In this case, a row of dumpsters would have been more appropriate.

The main issue, however, is whether all the people at Floatopia would choose to carry their trash up the stairs and dispose of it properly. I think they would if they thought that this wasn’t simply something nice to do, but mandatory. The pervading spirit in I.V. is that there is a freedom to trash. If you visit areas around other college communities, like UCLA, Harvard, or even Santa Barbara City College, you won’t have to drive over trash in the street or step over broken bottles along a dirt path. You might ask why students from other colleges don’t drop their wrappers wherever they want, or leave tipped-over trash cans where they fall. It’s the expectation of the community. In the City of Santa Barbara trash is not tolerated, and litterers are fined. For some reason, I.V. residents get carte blanche. They move here, see that landlords and neighbors don’t care what they do, and they start the trashing. And here comes the next problem – accountability.

A resident suggested holding a freshman orientation session on the proper disposal of trash. Sounds good, right? But who would pay for it? The I.V. Recreation and Park District (IVRPD)? UCSB? There’s always someone who shoots down the idea with the ubiquitous “They should do it.” In I.V. it’s always someone else who needs to pony up and take the hit. Well, here’s a suggestion: Why doesn’t the IVRPD or Santa Barbara County hire a person just to clean up I.V.? This “trash cop” could start by fining the landlords with trash outside their buildings. The landlords would pass on the pain to their tenants, and probably start to include detailed “no littering” clauses in their rental agreements. The trash cop could also ticket individuals for infractions. In this way, one of these organizations could make some extra cash by enforcing the existing ordinances. This money could then be used to educate and train incoming students to recycle and discard their trash properly. The trash cycle would be broken.

There were also other types of ickiness at Floatopia that couldn’t be put in a trash bag and dragged away. The thousands of students who thronged to the beaches had nowhere to go to the bathroom, unless they were willing to climb the steep steps up from the beach and head home. I’m thinking that not that many made the trek. Yuck! One I.V. resident pointed out that the problem would have been solved by having a row of porta-potties on Del Playa. That would be great, but again who would pay for it? The UCSB Excursion Club was the group that advertised Floatopia. Were they responsible for providing porta-potties or trash cans? Nope. Was Santa Barbara County? Nope. IVRPD? Ditto. With no one taking responsibility, there was no one to organize the event or blame for its shortcomings. Unlike with the trash problem, I don’t have an easy answer.

Maybe a committee of I.V. residents, county representatives, and IVRPD board members should be convened to address how to handle events of this nature. I’m not sure that events like Floatopia shouldn’t happen. If I was a student, I would have gone. What we don’t want in our community is any more events, like Halloween, that are marked by destruction, trash, and crime. It’s just no fun, and it’s not safe. It’s time for I.V. residents to take responsibility. The solution is up to us.


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