Data from San Diego Beach Cleanups 2012
In January 2007, we started collecting information from data cards distributed to volunteers. This data helps us identify and share information about major pollution sources in San Diego.
San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter conduct twice-monthly beach cleanups throughout the county and address the issue of trash in our oceans and on our beaches. Along with special cleanup events led by both organizations, volunteers have helped remove over 43,000 pounds of trash from our beaches and waterways since 2007.
4,308 volunteers removed 7,594 pounds of trash in 2012. This was our second highest volunteer turn out to date. The effort of each volunteer resulted in roughly 1.72 pounds being removed from the marine environment. In previous years, each volunteer removed 0.60 pounds. While we applaud the incredible increase in volunteerism, the increase in collected debris is still troubling.
For three years, the most trash per volunteer was collected at Ocean Beach. This year, Ocean Beach became one of the cleaner beaches, with just 0.73 pounds collected per volunteer. Mission Beach topped the list for 2012, with each volunteer collecting approximately 3.8 pounds of the total 941 pounds collected.
32% of collected debris was plastic. While we collected less plastic on our beaches this year than 2011, many of the plastics found in 2012 were less than an inch in diameter. The slow decline in single-use plastics found indicates proper disposal and increased awareness.
80,000 more items of debris were collected than in 2011. The weight of debris is not quite as telling as the number of items removed. Most of the collected debris in 2012 were small plastics, Styrofoam, and cigarette butts. Although they don’t weigh a lot, there presence is a serious threat to our waterways.
Cigarette butts topped the list in 2012. Volunteers collected an all-time high of cigarette butts, topping 2011 by nearly 20,000. Nearly every cleanup event recoded 100 or more, making cigarette butts one of the most prevalent debris issues throughout San Diego County’s beaches.
Plastic bags continue to be one of the less common items. Although only 3% of debris were plastic bags, there were over 7,500 collected. Limiting use of plastic bags should continue to be encouraged.
Recycling could help limit the presenceof marine debris. Over 53,000 items of debris found were made of recyclable material. Increased recycling by individuals could help remove over 30% of marine debris in San Diego.
Our top three items of concern are still plastic food wrappers, cigarettes and Styrofoam. While the decrease in Styrofoam is promising, cigarette butts have become an undeniable issue for our beaches.