Data from San Diego Beach Cleanups
San Diego Coastkeeper and the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation conduct twice-monthly beach cleanups throughout the county to address the issue of trash in our oceans and on our beaches. So far, we have successfully completed nearly 200 beach cleanups.
In January 2007, we started collecting information from data cards distributed to volunteers. This data helps us to identify and share information about major pollution sources in San Diego. We upload the information to our interactive beach data site, and these are some highlights of what we have learned from 2007 through 2013:
The total weight of trash collected and volunteerism decreased.
The top ten items found at our cleanups remained similar to previous years.
- A large amount of items found are composed of plastic. These items take a very long time to break down in the marine environment, leaching chemicals into the surrounding water as they do, and pose a significant threat to wildlife, including sea birds, sea turtles and marine mammals. Plastics do not biodegrade, but only break into smaller, more brittle pieces that easily find their ways into the bellies of sealife.
- We collected 14,500 fewer cigarette butts in 2013 than in 2012. That decrease is promising, but not conclusively indicative of an overall decreasing trend. The numbers of these plastic toxic bombs are still staggering: volunteers counted 6,272 butts at just one cleanup in PB this year, and the total for the year was over 58,000.
- Styrofoam pieces were again one of the top three items counted. Numbers have dropped off a bit after 2010’s spike to 25,000; we counted 16,166 pieces in total this year between our regular monthly cleanups and our other cleanup programs. By far, the highest counts centered on the North County beaches of Moonlight Beach and South Carlsbad State Beach.
- Historically, Coronado Beach has an issue with single-use and take-out plastics. It frequently ranked highest in the number of plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic lids, cups, and straws, and plastic food wrappers.
- Recycling should be improved in Ocean Beach. Sunset Cliffs and Ocean Beach Pier typically have the highest counts of aluminum cans and glass bottles – recyclables associated with alcohol consumption.
San Diego has an astounding trash problem –a fact evident when data from Coastkeeper and Surfrider cleanups as well as information from other organizations and major events, including Coastal Cleanup Day, Creek to Bay and the 4th of July Morning After Mess, were combined in 2010.
If you want to read more, download our 2011 beach cleanup data analysis one pager.
Slideshow photo credits include NOAA and Andre Lima.