Marine Debris (57)

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.

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Data – they aren’t just numbers. The data we collect every year during our beach cleanups include numbers, of course, but we also gather valuable anecdotal insights from seasoned volunteers and common misconceptions from newcomers. It’s easy to compile the numbers into graphs and statistics, which we share on our San Diego beach cleanup data webpage, but we also wanted to create a separate-than-science analysis of our beach cleanup finds this year. In that vein, we encourage your to read these eleven crazy things we learned at beach cleanups in 2014.

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  1. Condoms and Tampons – The Usual Unusuals
    We can’t explain it. By far, condoms and tampons top the “unusual items” category tracked by our data-seeking volunteers. How and why do these used personal products find their way to our beaches? It’s San Diego’s great hygiene mystery.
  2. Baby, This Beach Doesn’t Look that Dirty
    It’s one of the most common things we hear volunteers say at the start of each San Diego County beach cleanup two hours later comes the inevitable surprise at the amount of trash they collected afterall. We know that what you can’t see can hurt you—and marine animals and the environment. Sadly, the majority of trash we collect is so small most beachgoers don’t immediately notice it; however, it poses a very large risk to wildlife because it is easy to ingest and hard to pick up.
  3. Butts are big—cigarette butts, that is.
    We removed over 75,000 cigarette butts from our coastal areas. That’s 3,750 packs of cigarettes worth of toxin-leaching, plastic foam pollution that harms water quality, fools marine animals and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of trash, never disappearing.
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  4. Cleaning up trash comes with warm fuzzy feelings
    Our 7,000 volunteers spent their Saturday mornings picking up trash. It doesn't sound so glamorous on paper, but time and again they tell us how they love the experience and the learning, which couldn’t please us more.
  5. Speaking of which—You are the Solution
    In 2014, you provided 14,000 solution hours beautifying our beaches and restoring them to a healthier state. Want to continue that impact? Commit to using fewer single-use items, ensure trash is properly discarded and educate your friends on beach pollution solutions.
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  6. The Great Trash Migration is Real
    If you don’t believe us, read number one again. Much of the trash that we pick up on our beaches didn’t get discarded there. It started somewhere inland and wind and rain carried it to a its resting destination. While you’re at it, reread number five, because you are the solution.
  7. Your Doctor May Surf
    This year, we found a stethoscope at one of our beach cleanups. Did your doctor lose hers?
  8. Where’s the Bag?
    In 2014 and 2013, fully intact, single-use plastic bags accounted for three percent of the trash we removed each year. Why is this interesting? It’s significantly lower than the number we removed in 2012. This may indicate a decrease in the use of plastic bags, the success of regional bag bans or an increase in recycling or proper disposal. But also, the thinness of plastic bags mean they are easily broken down into smaller pieces, and our volunteers would count these small pieces as other plastics. It is likely that plastic bags are a larger environmental problem than our stats are showing. We will track this trend as our statewide bag ban takes effect.
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  9. Plastic is Pesky
    It’s the most common material we find, and it never biodegrades There is nothing more frustrating that reaching down to pick up a plastic cup off a beach or mudflat only to have it shatter like glass in your hand because it is so brittle from sitting out in the sun. Your littered plastic cup just became a thousand littered plastic fragments.
  10. It’s Not Just That Beach
    Don’t think your local, non-touristy beach is immune from trash build-up, unlike “those other” beaches. See point number two. Though they may look clean, every beach in San Diego County suffers from pollution. Sadly. There’s hope. Reread number five.
  11. Ew. Stinky Seaweed and Dead BirdsDead albatross with plastic in it's body cavity
    Many people think anything that makes the beach less nice for humans, like stinky seaweed or dead birds, is trash. But these are natural parts of the lifecycles of a healthy ecosystem, so let’s keep them out of our trash bags and on the beaches where they belong. After all, a beach with seaweed is an indication that there is a kelp forest offshore!

What crazy things did you learn at beach cleanups this year? Comment below to tell us what we should add to our list.

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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.

Paige M water bottle braceletSMALLI 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 M  DMP recycling committeeSMALLPaige 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!

She thinks the best way to convince kids to make a difference is to hear it from other kids. Her parents are looking into publishing her story and donating the proceeds from sales to San Diego Coastkeeper. If you want to help just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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coastkeeper coastal cleanup dayA great Coastal Cleanup Day includes binational participation.

That's why four of our LEAP students, six Community Advisory Council members, two staff and I spent the day at the border focusing on marine debris.

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.

border-fence-san-diegoThe 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.

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plastic bags pollute san diegoSan 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.

 

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plastic bag monsterJust 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."

 

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cardiff-2009-012-sWe 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 Chaptercardiff-2009-021-shost 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.

 

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surfer water trashWhen 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Navy_Cleanup_2013

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.

Both the LA Times and CBS News 8 were present and reported on the cleanup and Coastkeeper’s presence.

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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. LUSH_2_2_13

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 are interested in arranging a Sponsored Cleanup with San Diego Coastkeeper, please contact us at 619-758-7743 x131 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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SAN DIEGO COASTKEEPER
2825 Dewey Rd., Ste. 200 • San Diego CA 92106 • TEL. 619.758.7743