Plastics dominate the types of marine debris found on local beaches in 2007 during beach cleanups
San Diego, March 27, 2008 – More than 80,000 pieces of plastic and items made from plastic or Styrofoam were collected by over 2,800 Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper volunteers during beach cleanups in San Diego County last year, highlighting the problem of plastic litter locally and around the world.
Throughout the year, Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter and San Diego Coastkeeper mobilize volunteers and host beach cleanups. Beginning in January of 2007, the cleanups incorporated a data collection component. Typically there are two beach cleanups each month, one in North County and one in southern San Diego County. At each cleanup, volunteers work in groups and use data cards to keep track of the marine debris they are picking up. The data gathered at these monthly cleanups will be used to track trends, educated the community and to advocate for policy change. In 2007, the non-profit organizations had over 2,800 volunteers participate in the beach cleanups. In addition, organizations coordinate county-wide cleanup efforts such as the California Coastal Cleanup Day and the Morning After Mess Cleanup Day.
Cigarette butts continue to be the top item found at local cleanups even with smoking bans at most beaches throughout San Diego County. Traditional butts are made of “synthetic polymer cellulose acetate” and never degrade, only breaking apart after roughly 12 years. Yet within an hour of contact with water, cigarette butts can begin leaching chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into the marine environment.
Perhaps more shocking is the large amount of plastics and items made from plastic or Styrofoam that were collected by volunteers throughout the year. Of the 3 ½ tons of trash removed, half of the items were made of plastic. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of marine debris comes from land based sources, so Surfrider and Coastkeeper volunteers make a direct impact by helping to keep the beaches clean and working to prevent litter from getting into the oceans.
Plastics, especially single-use or “disposable” types, are becoming an increasing problem for the marine environment. In the North Pacific Gyre there is an area twice the size of Texas called “the garbage patch” where plastic outweighs plankton by a ratio of 6-to-1. Plastic bags have been know to choke turtles, birds have been found dead with their stomachs full of plastic, and many types of marine life have been entangled in wayward plastic fishing gear.
Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 80 chapters worldwide. To raise awareness of the issue and help find solutions, Surfrider has started a “Rise Above Plastics” campaign. One of the first action items of the campaign is to slow the consumption of “disposable” plastic by encouraging people to use reusable water bottles every day and use cloth bags when shopping.
San Diego Coastkeeper:
San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s bays, beaches, watersheds and ocean for the people and wildlife that depend on them. We balance community outreach, education, and advocacy to promote stewardship of clean water and a healthy coastal ecosystem. Dedicated to the belief that we all have a right to clean water, Coastkeeper is the largest professional organization dedicated solely to the monitoring and protection of San Diego’s coastal areas and waterways. Beginning in 2007, Coastkeeper started its Marine Debris Campaign to reduce marine pollution through education and policy change.