LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Southland residents may be losing millions of dollars every year by avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away, according to a study.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program economic study released earlier this month found Orange County residents could save $32 million in summer travel spending costs by reducing marine debris by 25 percent at beaches located in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties.

Data collected at 31 beaches on multiple beach characteristics – including marine debris, cleanliness, and parking – also showed savings could reach nearly $150 million with a a 100 percent reduction in trash, according to the study.

Researchers than applied the data collected to predict correlations between marine debris levels and economic losses to the area.

Under one scenario, reducing marine debris by 75 percent from six beaches near the outflow of the Los Angeles River would benefit users of those beaches $5 per trip and increase visitation by 43 percent, for a total of $53 million in benefits, researchers said.

Sherry Lippiat, California regional coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program, told KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore that Dockweiler State Beach – which has a three-mile long shoreline with a picnic area and concession stand right located less than a mile from Los Angeles International Airport – was among the region’s dirtiest shores.

“Ultimately, the most efficient way to reduce the amount of debris on shorelines is to prevent it at the source,” Lippiat said.

According to the study, the two biggest factors beachgoers consider are marine debris and water quality levels.

While the study’s data focused primarily on Orange County, researchers concluded that “given the enormous popularity of beach recreation throughout the United States, the magnitude of recreational losses associated with marine debris has the potential to be substantial.”

Click here (PDF) to read the complete Marine Debris Economic Study.

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