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Cardiff earns title of dirtiest area beach

COAST CITIES — Last year, Mission Beach ranked as the dirtiest beach in San Diego County with 3.8 pounds of trash collected per volunteer. In 2013, the dirtiest beach title belongs to Cardiff State Beach, with 4.06 pounds of trash collected per volunteer. This year, the cleanest beach in San Diego County is La Jolla Shores with .58 pounds of trash per volunteer.

San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter removed 9,544 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches in 2013. After tallying this year’s results, organizers say 6,489 volunteers removed 1,950 more pounds than in 2012, collecting 157,908 items of trash.

This year, the top four items of trash include:

— Cigarette Butts (52,236 items)

— Plastic Food Wrappers (18,420 items)

— Plastic Foam (16.158 items)

— Fully Intact Plastic Bags (4,418)

“Those pesky, little cigarettes are significant, and they continue to harm and destroy San Diego’s beautiful beaches in a big way,” said Haley Jain Haggerstone, chapter coordinator for Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter. “We love the increase in our volunteer efforts this year, but we are troubled by the amount of small trash pieces they collected.”

As in past years, cigarettes and cigarette butts continue to be the most common trash item on San Diego County beaches. In 2013, volunteers removed 58,236 cigarette butts from San Diego beaches, 14,500 less than in 2012. Organizers say cigarette butts are still a major pollution concern for San Diego beaches because they are non-biodegradable and leak toxins into the water and the environment, a serious health problem for both marine wildlife and humans.

This year saw a decrease in the total number of items collected, and a larger percentage of those items were plastic materials. Organizers say plastics are a huge concern for marine life because they do not biodegrade, but break into smaller and smaller pieces as they form a “plastic dust.” This process releases harmful toxins into the ocean and harms marine life that mistakes the plastic particles for food. Plastic materials include food wrappers, lids, cups, straws, utensils, plastic foam and single-use plastic bags.

To solve these pollution problems and volunteer at beach cleanups, interested community members and visitors can help at one of the 38 cleanups already planned for 2014. Find more information on upcoming cleanup days by visiting Surfrider’s Event Calendar. Remember, Surfrider and Coastkeeper ask volunteers to bring their own reusable bags, gloves and water bottles.