As summer visitors slowly depart from our town and as the streets quiet down, it is time to look at what has been left behind. September 18th being International Coastal Cleanup Day, how about we take a stroll on the beach and pick up what doesn’t belong to the sand and waves?
The Surfrider Foundation released its annual national beach cleanup report in July. In 2020, nearly 9,000 volunteers removed 80,360 pounds (or 414,037 items) of trash and recyclables from beaches, neighborhoods and waterways. As you may guess, single-use masks and gloves are now being heavily discarded, along with an increase in takeout food container trash. The most prevalent items collected were plastic fragments, followed by cigarette butts and foam fragments. 88% of all items collected were plastic. Predictably, this sad trend continues to contribute to the omnipresence of plastics in the environment. Hence, it justifies that more data to be collected along with continued public awareness, towards tougher local, state and federal plastic bans and legislation.
Beach cleanups used to be organized by large groups during school field trips, team building activities or community efforts. Since small self-organized groups called solo cleanups are now the norm, Surfrider is offering an online tool to input data. A quick search for Del Mar beaches indicates that in 2020, 11 volunteers contributed to the removal of 16.1 lbs of trash and recyclables from the Powerhouse Park area. 2021 has had a strong beginning with three cleanups already completed, and 15 lbs removed.
How does one go about it? The Surfrider Foundation (cleanups.surfrider.org) recommends to wear facial covering and gloves, and to carry hand sanitizer. Bring your grabbers along if you have them (also called pickup stick or reacher); they make life so much easier! Two trash bags or buckets will allow you to part recyclables from trash as you go. You can weigh your collection, and fill out the online sheet of facts once you are done. This way, your data becomes part of the Surfrider Foundation’s National Cleanup Database.
Of course, any of us can pick up litter from our beaches anytime without logging-in our finds. However, it is a great incentive to know that the Surfrider Foundation uses the reported statistics to provide some backing data for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. This bill, reintroduced in the US Congress in March 2021, addresses plastic pollution through its entire lifecycle, from production to recycling.