One of the best things about San Diego Coastkeeper’s beach cleanup program is the collection of data by our volunteers. While some volunteers find the idea of tallying up hundreds of cigarette butts or pieces of Styrofoam daunting, the information gathered from data cards is an essential part of communicating about the trash problem(s) on our local beaches.
The most comprehensive data set we have is from our twice-monthly Saturday cleanups that we facilitate in partnership with the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation since 2003. We analyze the totals from beach to beach and year to year, and also look at the total numbers of certain items that are common nuisances on our beaches (like those pesky plastic bags!). We started collecting tally cards in 2007 and since then have seen some shocking trends in our beach cleanup data . Here are the highlights from the 2010 data overview:
· Six of the top ten items collected at our cleanups are composed of plastic. This is a concern because plastic pollution does not biodegrade in the ocean environment and can persist for many years.
· All of the plastic items counted have increased in number since 2007.
· Styrofoam pieces have doubled in number from 12,000 pieces in 2009 to 25,000 pieces in 2010.
· Volunteers collected over 42,000 butts from beaches and boardwalks in 2010. It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually a decrease from 2009 and halted the increasing trend of the previous three years (hey – some good news!)
All of the work Coastkeeper is doing by coordinating these cleanups will decrease marine debris in the ocean. Join us to volunteer by adding the Beach Cleanup schedule to your calendar, and checking our San Diego Coastkeeper events calendar regularly to find announcements about other cleanups and green events. You can also listen to the experts talk about inland sources of debris at our March 2011 Signs of the Tide community forum. Or just renew your Coastkeeper membership and let us do the dirty work with the volunteers. No matter what, our everyday choices make a difference with marine debris.