Blue Water Task Force, Solutions, Coastal Preservation, Water Quality
November 03 2014

San Diego Ash Cans Help Revitalize Beaches & Inspire Change

by James Marvel, San Diego Chapter Coordinator, Hold On To Your Butt

* San Diego Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, with Surfrider volunteers 

The Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter’s Hold On To Your Butt (HOTYB) committee has been very busy this year. In the beginning of 2014, the Chapter's HOTYB committee set a goal to install the County's 200th cigarette butt ash can. Not only did we reach our goal, our ash can program has been instrumental in reducing cigarette butt litter in San Diego, with 2.16 million cigarette butts being kept off our streets and beaches, and out of our oceans (using conservative estimates).

In order to reach our goal, the HOTYB committee’s Strategic Ash Coordinator, Manase Mansur, organized teams of volunteers to conduct surveys of all the existing ash cans at installation locations throughout San Diego County. Volunteer teams were deployed in early 2014, and reported back to the Chapter on the status of each ash can to determine which ones were in need of a new sticker, needed repair, or needed to be replaced. Some of the existing ash cans, that were installed in 2007, were in need of a lot of TLC. 

While the surveys were being conducted, the HOTYB committee determined that the optimum spot for the initial ash can revitalization to take place would be the coastal communities of Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach. HOTYB committee leaders reached out to their ash can program partners, including Discover PB, I Love A Clean San Diego, Ocean Beach Town Council, and Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, to discuss new installation locations where cigarette butt litter was most prevalent. Knowing the number of ash cans that needed to be refurbished and locations that needed ash cans, the HOTYB committee got to work organizing the Pacific Beach Ash can Revitalization Project, and the Ocean Beach Ash can Revitalization Project.

On Sunday, September 28, about 20 Surfrider volunteers came out to revitalize 27 existing ash cans, and install 22 new ash cans for a total of 59 strategically placed ash cans in Pacific Beach. To thank the volunteers’ dedication to protecting our oceans, waves and beaches, the HOTYB committee organized an after party directly following the day’s work, including a free raffle drawing of prizes donated from local businesses.

Following the PB event, on Sunday, October 26, thirty Surfrider volunteers gathered to revitalize 50 existing ash cans, and install 30 new ash cans. Prior to hitting the streets, volunteers gathered at Te Mana Café in Ocean Beach to attend a press conference where the HOTYB committee presented certificates of recognition to Mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority President Thella Bowens, San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, Ocean Beach Town Council President Gretchen Newsom, and Ocean Beach MainStreet Association President Barbara Iacometti.

The support that these leaders and organizations provide comes in the form of partnership in emptying the ash cans regularly, and financial support, with $5,750 given in grants to purchase the latest round of new ash cans, installation hardware, and stickers. Having time to reflect on these amazing events, it is great to see so many long-standing supporters brought together in Ocean Beach, which was where the very first Surfrider San Diego County Chapter strategic ash can was installed nearly eight years ago. The continued success of the HOTYB campaign, and the strategic ash can program in particular, is directly related to the passion that people have when it comes to protecting our oceans, waves and beaches.

*San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer accepting a certificate from HOTYB's Ashcan Coordinator Manase Mansur.

It has been an inspired year for the San Diego County Chapter HOTYB committee, as they surpassed their goal of 200 ash cans installed, having installed the 230th strategic ash can in San Diego County during the Ocean Beach Ash can Revitalization Project. As the HOTYB committee looks to expand its installations in North County and inland communities in San Diego County, it will continue to raise awareness about the harmful effects of cigarette butt litter on our environment, and the importance to Hold On To Your Butt!

Local news coverage:

"Mayor Faulconer Joins Cigarette Litter Clean-Up," CBS San Diego, California, October 27, 2014

"Volunteers Combat Cigarette Butt Litter in Ocean Beach," ABC San Diego, Ocober 26, 2014