Marine Debris (56)
More than 80% of marine debris starts on land. Read more about this trash epidemic and how San Diego Coastkeeper works to clean up our beaches and improve regulations to reduce single-use plastic and Styrofoam products that can harm our ocean.
This is a story about a 12-year-old girl from San Diego who loves surfing, art and making the world a better place. One day she contacted San Diego Coastkeeper to share her story, and what we heard was not only impressive, it is an inspiration.
Paige realized that there was a big problem the world faced - ocean pollution. She knew that much of our trash ended up in one of her favorite places, the ocean, making it dirty and unhealthy for the marine creatures that lived there. What she did next proves that anyone could make a positive impact when they take action. Starting with a recycling program at her school, we're excited to see the impact her newest project will make.
I asked our little ocean hero to share her story and this is what she told us:
Coastkeeper: What inspired you?
Paige M.: "My 4th grade teacher at Del Mar Pines School inspired me to start the recycling program. She asked if I could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?"
CK: When did you start the project?
PM: "I started planning for the project in the spring of my 4th grade year but officially launched the recycling program the fall of my 5th grade year."
CK: How many students participated in the recycling program?
PM: "Everyone at school – students and their families, staff and teachers – are welcome to participate. We host collection days on campus twice a month where families can bring their recyclable plastic drinking bottles from home. I also placed specially marked collection bins around campus that my committee and I check weekly.
CK: Why did you want to take on this project?
PM: "Our landfills only have limited space. Recycling helps take out a lot of unnecessary waste in the landfills. If we recycled every plastic bottle we used, we would keep two billion tons of plastic out of landfills. It's also cool to see all the things that recycled bottles can become – like sleeping bags."
Paige makes her moves
Paige started a recycling program to raise money for her school foundation. She created an education program and recruited a committee of schoolmates to help. In the fall of 6th grade, Paige designed a charm bracelet using the water bottle logo she created for her recycling program. She sold the bracelets and donated the money to water.org, a charity that produces safe drinking water in Africa, South Asia and Central America.
She also wrote and illustrated a short story called "Kayas Undersea Adventure." The story is about a girl who goes surfing and gets transported to an underwater world that's polluted. The surfer girl returns home and finds ways to encourage others to correct the pollution she had seen. Paige dedicated her book to San Diego Coastkeeper, because she thinks that our mission of keeping San Diego's waters fishable, swimmable and drinkable is cool!
A great Coastal Cleanup Day includes binational participation.
We joined WiLDCOAST for Coastal Cleanup Day at Border Field State Park for two hours. Afterwards, we went to the friendship garden between the two U.S. fences, where we met Tijuana Waterkeeper and Coastkeeper Community Council member Margarita Diaz across the fence. She brought a group of students from Mexico to meet our LEAP students and build friendships. We had a tour of the garden and did some work placing rocks. The participants also wrote wishes on rocks and placed them in the garden.
The highlight of the trip was Sandra's marine debris lesson. Sandra presented a bilingual hands-on lesson and discussion on marine debris to students on both sides of the fence. To me, the bilingual, bi-national nature of the event was spectacular. All of the participants I spoke to were very moved by the event (myself included).
We hope to continue coordinating such inspiring events for youth in our region. If you couldn't be there, I encourage you to enjoy a few photos on our facebook page, courtesy of Community Council member Hector Valtierra.
Special thanks to Teva and their A Pair for a Foot program for providing funds to make this important day possible.
San Diego's proposed plastic bag reduction ordinance has made it through two Rules and Economic Means Committee meetings and several feedback sessions with stakeholders.
As currently drafted, the ordinance will ban single-use plastic bags in stores selling grocery items and mandate a 10-cent fee on paper bags. For now, retail is exempt from the ban, and no reporting is necessary by impacted stores.
Coastkeeper would like to see the retail exclusion removed from the ordinance and a reporting requirement added so that stores are held accountable. We teamed with Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter to ask for these improvements to the ordinance's drafters and elected officials, who ultimately decide its fate.
The ban won't head to a vote by the full city council for up to a year, pending an environmental review, which gives Coastkeeper time to work with our partners to strengthen the draft and support the development of complementary ordinances in surrounding cities.
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, when single-use bags seem the most unavoidable, the City of Oceanside is making good on its annual commitment to participate in A Day Without A Bag. Residents and local businesses alike will participate in a day-long celebration of reusable bags and denouncement of those guilt-inducing wisps of polythene we all hate to love.
Folks who aren't yet sure if they can live without the convenience of single-use plastic or paper bags are invited to, just for one day, try it out. For people who have already made the change in their own lives, this is a great opportunity to help others try out the BYOB lifestyle as well. Volunteers are needed to help hand out reusable bags to shoppers, staff a Zero Waste Station, and, a task only for the truly committed and perhaps a little deranged, don the Bag Monster costume and show the world just how scary plastic bags can be.
(As a side note, Coastkeeper's own Travis Pritchard takes particular pride in having instilled life-long fear of single-use plastic bags in the hearts of several young girl scouts once upon a time with a uniquely convincing Bag Monster act, but we don't like to tell people that.)
Volunteers are needed to help out for three-hour shifts at both the Oceanside Farmers Market and Sunset Market. More information and details on how to sign up to help can be found here and here.
If you are interested in participating but can't commit to volunteering, it's easy: On December 19, when asked "Paper or plastic?" simply smile and say, "No thanks, I've got my own."
We did it folks, we called Cardiff State Beach dirty.
Not too much fuss was made when Mission Beach took the dubious honor last year, or Ocean Beach before that, or Pacific Beach before that....
Most residents probably shrugged and throught, Well, yeah, tourists. But people seem to feel differently about Cardiff. They aren't too thrilled that someone is plugging their nose and pointing at their beach and saying "ewy." And they shouldn't be thrilled.
San Diego County has 70 miles of beautiful coastline that deserves to be protected, and Cardiff State Beach is a beautiful beach. We love spending time there. We also know from years of experience in the beach cleanup industry (is that a thing?) that just becuase a beach is beautiful, and we love it and have all kind of great memories there, does not mean that there isn't also trash there.
People litter. People throw things in the street, or let their waste bins overflow, and it washes to the beach when the rains come (and then, of course, we blame the rain).
Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back if you aren't one of those people, and give yourself another one if you are the kind of person who picks up someone else's disgusting trash when you find it on your beach. And go ahead an give yourself another pat if you are a little ticked off that Cardiff State Beach was just called dirty. Because you should be.
It's probably a good time to explain how we arrive at that conclusion. San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapterhost a few dozen cleanups each year. At every single cleanup we host, volunteers keep data sheets with records of the items they find. There are several catagories, such as "Cigarettes/Cigarette Butts" and "Plastic Food Wrappers" and "Plastic Bags." Additionally, at the end of the cleanup, we weigh all the bags of trash that have been collected. Each cleanup gets its own weight number. If we return to that beach again later in the year, that number grows. At the end of the year, we pull up all the data we have collected over the past twelve months, and start running the numbers.
Now, let me say that beach cleanups are not a perfect science. As with most pursuits, there are a lot of factors involved that we can't control. Each beach is different. Even trash levels flucuate throughout the year, peaking during tourist season and after winter storms. This is why we use metrics like "pounds of trash per volunteer effort" to help us understand the data we collect. By normalizing the pounds of trash volunteers collected to the number of people who volunteered, we get a sense of trash density. This is our only way of correcting for effort, given that we have different numbers of volunteers show up each time we host a cleanup and that the beaches we attend to are all different sizes. In 2013, Cardiff State Beach had the highest trash density. That is to say, the most trash found per volunteer effort. That magic number was 4.06 pounds per volunteer.
For those folks out there who have continued to ask us questions about this, allow me to break it down.
When San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider San Diego host beach cleanups, they are open to the public. Fifty people might show up to a cleanup at Beach A, while 250 show up for a cleanup at Beach B. If we were to take the results from the big cleanup of 250 people and look only at the total weight of the trash they picked up, we might see a number like 100lbs. That's a lot of trash. Let's then say we head over to that 50-person cleanup at Beach A and find that they have collected 70 lbs of trash. Well, 70lbs is not as much trash as 100lbs. So should we say Beach B is "dirtier" than Beach A? No. Because when we use our handy dandy pounds/volunteer equasion, we find that Beach A has a higher trash density.
In 2013, Moonlight Beach came out on top as having the highest total trash weight at the end of the year. That number was 1,011 pounds. So why didn't we name Moonlight the dirtiest? Because it took a heck of a lot more volunteers to pick up all that trash than it took to pick up Cardiff's trash total. And that is why we called Cardiff State Beach "dirty."
Allow me one last caveat. Maybe Cardiff stood out in our end-of-year analysis because the people who showed up for the cleanups there just love that beach so gosh darn much that they really dug in and went the extra mile. They pulled out over four pounds of trash per person. Considering that most of what we find are small items like cigarette buts, plastic bags, and plastic foam, that is no small feat.
So maybe "dirtiest" can mean "most loved" too.
When I look at this photo, I see a wave I would normally kill to ride- with the exception of the surrounding wall of trash. I instantly visualize an ocean littered with garbage, paddling through oil and debris during my sunset surf. The amazing feeling I normally get just wouldn't be the same if I had to dodge water bottles and was paranoid about swallowing the contaminated water.
Trash surrounds us everywhere we go on land. Between all the street litter, garbage days, overflowing trash cans and street sweeping, isn't the water the one place we can get away from it all?
It is, but at a cost. According to the L.A. Times, San Diego spends close to $14 million annually on coastal cleanup efforts. Can't you think of about 14 million ways this money could be used better? Yes, I want my waters to be clean so I can swim, surf and snorkel, but why do we have to spend so much money cleaning them up when we can simply prevent the problem in the first place?
One of the biggest inhibitors to keeping our waters clean is urban runoff. This is the water that runs through populated, man-made areas and picks up oil, grease, pesticides, metals and other toxic chemicals as it trickles directly into our water bodies. This not only makes our waters gross, but also harms the marine wildlife.
To do its part in cleaning up the community, San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter get together and host regular beach cleanups throughout the county. In 2012, 4,308 volunteers removed almost 8,000 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches. And still residents pay for regular trash control from the city. Houston, we have a serious problem.
As a self-proclaimed water-lover (as I imagine most San Diegans are), I make a point to be aware of how my actions on land effect the waters I treasure and I think others should do the same. To do your part in keeping our ocean, bay and streams pollution-free, please check out some pollution prevention tips. We may live mostly on land, but we need the sea. I can't imagine a life of polluted waters and trash littered barrels, and I will do whatever it takes to keep that photo from becoming a reality in San Diego.
Beach cleanup volunteers with EPMG could not have chosen a nicer day to pick up debris on Pacific Beach while enjoying the beautiful San Diego weather. EPMG hosted one of our Sponsored Beach Cleanups, a great opportunity for corporate groups and organizations to learn more about pollution and how to prevent it through a hands-on beach cleanup experience.
Within the first hour, the 27 volunteers from EPMG had already found three dead birds, potentially a result of ingestion of marine debris or entanglement in materials that made its way to the beach. By the end of the cleanup, they had picked up 2,720 cigarette butts from the beach and the boardwalk.
Cigarette butts are one of the main contributors to marine pollution, taking anywhere from 18 months to ten years to break down. Just one cigarette butt in a liter of water is lethal to fish and other marine animals and their constant presence is concerning.
In 2012, we found over 70,000 cigarette butts throughout San Diego county. Slowing their accumulation in our waterways depends on proper disposal of cigarette butts, rather than leaving them on sidewalks and in storm drains, where they can eventually make their way to our beaches.
Volunteers from EPMG collected over 38 pounds of trash during their cleanup, finding more than a pound per person. In addition to cigarette butts, small plastics were found in abundance across the beach. Over 400 unidentifiable plastic pieces and nearly 200 plastic bottle cpas, straws, and food wrappers were collected. Many of these come from drinks and snacks we bring to the beach in single-use containers. As summer beach season approaches, do your part and consider bringing food and drinks in a reusable container that won't get left behind!
EPMG volunteers got an up close look at one of the many marine organisms impacted by marine debris and their cleanup efforts. A baby sea lion, possibly impacted by the current food shortage, made its way up onto the beach. Quickly attended to by the SeaWorld animal rescue team, the sea lion pup's presence was a reminder that we share our beaches and water with more than just people. So many items removed from the beach by EPMG could pose a serious threat to marine mammals like sea lions. Keeping our beaches and waterways clear of small plastics and toxic cigarette butts are a small way to make a huge difference for human health and marine life alike.
San Diego Coastkeeper is thankful for companies like EPMG who are committed to making a difference in San Diego's communities. Keeping our water clean and safe is something we strive for every day, and we need the help and awareness of our volunteers.
Last week, I was invited to attend a beach cleanup along Silver Strand training beach with sailors from Naval Base Coronado. Anytime I get to help with a beach cleanup is a great opportunity, but being able to participate with one where so few people get to visit was an incredible experience.
Sailors who work every day on Silver Strand arrived to help make their “office” a little cleaner and to give back to the greater San Diego community. Working for about three hours, the team hauled more than 12 cubic yards of debris from the beach, completing EPA marine debris data cards as they worked. Slightly different from San Diego Coastkeeper’s beach cleanup cards, the EPA is looking closer at the source of debris. Asking volunteers to not only tally their findings, but note any specific brands they can identify during the cleanup.
The Navy cleanup is held annually in advance of the Western snowy plover and California least tern nesting season, when Navy training is adjusted to avoid potential damage to nests. With the season starting March 1, the removal of debris plays a huge role in helping these birds to survive and thrive along Silver Strand.
While not coordinated by Coastkeeper, being at the cleanup was a great way to see the part the Navy plays here in San Diego in minimizing our marine debris issues and what strides the EPA is taking to tackle the same problem.
Cleaning a beach vital to San Diego and our military alongside Navy sailors and EPA representatives was a strong reminder of just how important clean and healthy water is to all of us. No matter where you live or work, we all can contribute to the marine debris problem and we can all be an equally effective part of the solution.
San Diego Coastkeeper offers a number of ways for the community to get involved in keeping our waters clean. Our beach cleanup program gives groups and individuals a way to actively participate in the solution through our monthly cleanups and Beach Cleanup in a Box.
A few times a year, we get the chance to work with a group through a Sponsored Cleanup, and they're often some of the most memorable experiences in this program. This past week, we were lucky enough to host such a cleanup with the support of LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. In town for a meeting, 30 LUSH employees from across North America came together at La Jolla Shores for an incredible day of giving back and learning.
This wasn't just another beach cleanup. There was something unique about the work done by this group. While talking with them about the the sources of marine debris, they shared with me ways they work to fight the problem in their own lives and through their work with LUSH. As a company that uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled bottles, biodegradable packing peanuts (instead of Styrofoam!), and uses fresh ingredients in their products, they were all personally connected to the marine debris problem and saw how their responsible choices made huge impacts on our waters.
Meticulously filling out their data cards, the LUSH team collected over 4,835 items from La Jolla Shores, sitting along an Area of Special Biological Significance. In two hours, they removed 26.85 pounds, including 2,542 plactic items, 809 cigarette butts and 636 Styrofoam pieces.
For a cold February afternoon, their enthusiam and excitement to make a difference that day was infectious. Surfers and joggers stopped to thank them for their work, giving our visitors a chance to connect with the people directly impacted by their efforts that day. It was also a reminder that those responsible choices they make in their own lives and through LUSH have a greater influence than they sometimes see.
Before leaving the beach that day, all 30 LUSH team members, hailing from across the US and Canada, became San Diego Coastkeeper members . While those of us who work and play in San Diego's water know the challenge we have in protecting it, it's a wonderful reminder that we have members 1,000s of miles away supporting our work and have actively contributed to solving those problems.
All of us at San Diego Coastkeeper would like to send a huge Thank You to the LUSH team for their efforts at La Jolla Shores and back home!
If you’ve ever helped out at a San Diego Coastkeeper or Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter beach cleanup, you’ve likely been handed one of our data cards along with your bags, gloves and trash grabbers. While the data card is sometimes met with enthusiasm, there is equal parts confusion. The reaction is similar to students who are told they get to watch a movie in class but have to fill out a worksheet too.
Unlike your movie worksheet in 6th grade, the data sheet we hand you isn’t graded but it does get used long after your day at a beach cleanup. They get compiled in our annual marine debris report and help direct decisions and actions.
The data cards are used to track what debris we’re finding on our beaches throughout the year. Every part of the card you fill out helps us to improve our understanding of marine debris in San Diego. They allow us to help plan for future cleanups, make local recommendations, design education programs, and study the impacts of policy.
Filling out a data card for an hour or two or cleanup may not seem like a big deal, but by each one of our 4,308 volunteers in 2012 helping to correctly fill out their data cards, we are able to learn far more about marine debris that we could on our own.
Thanks to data cards, we know:
- 7,594 pounds of trash were removed in 2012. This means each volunteer removed roughly 1.72 pounds of trash. That’s over a pound more than in previous years!
- Ocean Beach, historically one of the dirtiest beaches, is now one of the cleanest, with less than 1 pound removed per volunteer.
- 32% of all items were plastic and 40% were cigarette butts. In fact, 20,000 more cigarette butts were found on beaches this year. Yikes!
- Over 53,000 debris items on our beaches are actually recyclable. Teaching our neighbors, family, and friends about what we can recycle could make a huge difference.
- A record low number of plastic bags were found, which means we're making better choices as a community. However, we collected 7,500, and this is still too many plastic bags on our beaches.
Thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers who helped make this another successful year of beach cleanups and contributed to our data collection.
Want to be a part of our 2013 marine debris program? Come out to any one of our beach cleanups. San Diego Coastkeeper is also happy to arrange special cleanups through our Beach Cleanup in Box and Sponsored Cleanup Program. We’ll supply you with everything you need to make your beaches a little cleaner, including a data card.