Compiling data from cleanup campaigns conducted twice a month throughout 2010, the study found beaches in Pacific Beach continued the trend of previous years as some of the dirtiest beaches in the county. Tourmaline Beach yielded the most trash collected by volunteers in 2010, according to the records kept on the amounts of trash gathered at each site.
Cigarette butts and plastic bags were a big problem for all beaches in the area, with Fiesta Island garnering first place for the highest number of plastic bags, followed closely by South Mission and Tourmaline beaches. All three had more than 250 bags collected during one cleanup alone.
Coastkeeper and Surfrider have worked together to collect trash at beaches since 2007. This year’s annual report found that cigarette butts, Styrofoam and plastics were the most common items found countywide.
Alicia Glassco, Coastkeeper’s education and marine debris manager, said that though the numbers were still high (nearly 6,000 butts were found during one cleanup at Fiesta Island — the highest in the county), this is the first time since the city banned smoking on beaches in 2006 that volunteers have seen a decline in the number of cigarette butts during collection efforts.
“We have still seen an increase in cigarette butts on beaches, even since the ban,” Glassco said. “This last report saw a leveling out of butts, so hopefully the idea is catching on.”
Though Pacific Beach fared the worst in the study, the area was neck-and-neck with Ocean Beach. While Tourmaline came in first with the most trash collected, the stretch of beach at Pacific Beach Drive came in fifth. Ocean Beach Pier and Dog Beach came in second and sixth, respectively.
The item of most concern to cleanup coordinators was Styrofoam, because of a sizeable increase in polystyrene waste found over the last few years. Volunteers recorded 25,000 Styrofoam items collected in 2010 — up from 12,000 in 2008.
In addition to using the data to educate the public about the items of trash most commonly found on beaches, Coastkeeper and Surfrider use it to communicate with local politicians and decision makers about important issues. Glassco and colleagues, for example, presented the data from the annual report to the San Diego City Council in January in an effort to influence policy on Styrofoam and plastic usage.
The trash collected on beaches, Glassco said, comes from numerous sources. Some of it washes up in the surf, some of it is left by visitors and some of it blows from dumpsters in beach communities.
“All of it will eventually end up downstream,” she said. “So it’s important to know what it is we’re leaving on our beaches.”
Coastkeeper and Surfrider have announced the full 2011 schedule and will again rotate locations of popular beaches throughout the county. The cleanups are open to all volunteers. For more information, visit www.sdcoastkeeper.org or www.surfriderSD.org.