December 16 – 2013 Year in Review: Coastkeeper, Surfrider Tally San Diego Beach Cleanup Data

Cardiff State Beach replaces Mission Beach as dirtiest beach in San Diego County

SAN DIEGO, December 16,2013–– San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter—two of the region’s leading environmental organizations—removed 9,544 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches in 2013. After tallying this year’s results, organizers say 6,489 volunteers removed 1,950 more pounds than in 2012, collecting 157,908 items of trash.

This year, the top four items of trash include:
• Cigarette Butts (52,236 items)
• Plastic Food Wrappers (18,420 items)
• Plastic Foam (16.158 items)
• Fully Intact Plastic Bags (4,418)

“Those pesky, little cigarettes are not insignificant and they continue to harm and destroy San Diego’s beautiful beaches in a big way,” said Haley Jain Haggerstone, Chapter Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter. “We love the increase in our volunteer efforts this year, but we are troubled by the amount of small trash pieces they collected.”

As in past years, cigarettes and cigarette butts continue to be the most common trash item on San Diego County beaches. In 2013, volunteers removed 58,236 cigarette butts from San Diego beaches, 14,500 less than in 2012. Organizers say cigarette butts are still a major pollution concern for San Diego beaches because they are non-biodegradable and leak toxins into the water and the environment, a serious health problem for both marine wildlife and humans.

This year saw a decrease in the total number of items collected, and a larger percentage of those items were plastic materials. Organizers say plastics are a huge concern for marine life because they do not biodegrade, but break into smaller and smaller pieces as they form a “plastic dust.” This process releases harmful toxins into the ocean and harms marine life that mistakes the plastic particles for food. Plastic materials include food wrappers, lids, cups, straws, utensils, plastic foam and single-use plastic bags.

Last year, Mission Beach ranked as the dirtiest beach in San Diego County with 3.8 pounds of trash collected per volunteer. In 2013, the dirtiest beach title belongs to Cardiff State Beach, with 4.06 pounds of trash collected per volunteer. This year, the cleanest beach in San Diego County is La Jolla Shores with .58 pounds of trash per volunteer.

To solve these pollution problems and volunteer at beach cleanups, interested community members and visitors can help at one of the 38 cleanups already planned for 2014. Find more information on upcoming cleanup days by visiting San Diego Coastkeeper’s Event Calendar or Surfrider’s Event Calendar. Remember, Surfrider and Coastkeeper ask volunteers to bring their own reusable bags, gloves and water bottles.

San Diego Coastkeeper
Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. For more information, visit San Diego Coastkeeper online at
Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter
The Surfrider Foundation is a grassroots nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the San Diego Chapter, go to