COAST CITIES — San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter announced results from their 2012 beach cleanup data collection. In 2012, more than 4,000 volunteers removed almost 7,600 pounds of trash, about an average of 1.7 pounds per person.The two groups coordinate twice-a-month beach cleanups along San Diego county’s coastline, rotating through popular beaches. This year, volunteers collected the most trash at Mission Beach while Ocean Beach traded its dirtiest ranking the last three years to become one of the cleaner beaches in 2012.
“We had more volunteers than ever proving that San Diego loves its beaches,” said Haley Jain Haggerstone, chapter coordinator for Surfrider San Diego. “Our 2012 beach cleanup data show that bigger trash items are finding their way to the proper receptacles, but it’s the smaller pieces of debris continuing to harm our beaches.”
According to 2012 data, cigarettes, Styrofoam fragments and plastics too small to be identified accounted for more than 60 percent of the debris collected. Of the 181,776 pieces of trash collected in 2012, nearly 40 percent was cigarette butts (a considerable increase from 2011). Plastic pieces accounted for 30 percent of the total number of items, including parts of bags, bottles, cups, straws, food wrappers and other miscellaneous plastic items.
With the amount of cigarette butts increasing at beach cleanups each year, both Coastkeeper and Surfrider have partnerships and campaigns dedicated to reducing the amount of cigarette waste polluting San Diego’s water.
“Rather than sending cigarette butts off to a landfill, Coastkeeper is registered with TetraCycle, a company that converts hard-to-recycle and non-recyclable materials into new products,” said Mallory Watson, community engagement coordinator for Coastkeeper. “At our beach cleanups this year, volunteers will collect cigarette butts in separate containers to remove them from the trash flow.” Coastkeeper Waterkeeper Jill Witkowski has also joined forces with law professors and policy analysts from across the country through the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project to explore innovative legal and policy options for reducing cigarette butt waste.
Surfrider’s Hold On To Your Butts campaign actively prevents cigarette debris by installing outdoor ashcans throughout the county and distributing pocket ashtrays to smokers. According to Haggerstone, the ashtrays, along with community advocacy, have decreased cigarette butt litter by 65 percent.
Another geographical problem area last year, according to Haggerstone, is the large number of tires that volunteers removed from the Tijuana River during special cleanups aimed at removing trash from the river before the season’s first rains flush it to the ocean.
To help solve these pollution problems and volunteer at beach cleanups, interested community members and visitors can help at one of the 35 cleanups already in the works for 2013. Surfrider and Coastkeeper ask volunteers to bring their own reusable bags, gloves and water bottles. Volunteers can find the full cleanup schedule at sdcoastkeeper.org or surfridersd.org.