Plastic Pollution
September 17 2018

Surfrider Volunteers Show Their Love for Healthy Beaches on International Coastal Cleanup Day

by Shannon Waters

Surfrider volunteers across the United States joined with hundreds of others around the world this past weekend on International Coastal Cleanup Day (ICCD), the world’s largest volunteer event. Armed with their buckets and work gloves, these volunteers spread out across beaches and shorelines from California to New York, Florida to Washington, and even in British Columbia, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. They picked up items large and small, from couch cushions and lobster pots to tiny plastic fragments, bits of foam, and - of course - the ubiquitous cigarette butt, which has topped the list as the most commonly found item at beach cleanups since volunteers started tracking this data in 1989.

Forty-one Surfrider chapters and clubs organized a beach cleanup this year. With 73% of them reporting results to date, Surfrider’s national totals stand at:

  • 3,080 volunteers
  • 18,761.8 pounds of trash and recyclables

Several chapters had planned to organize a cleanup on ICCD this year, but either had to cancel or reschedule those events due to Hurricane Florence and other weather-related events.

One of Surfrider’s newest chapters to join our growing network, the Northern Ohio Chapter, conducted a cleanup on the Cuyahoga River. Those volunteers used stand-up paddleboards and kayaks to help them reach the furthest banks of the river that would otherwise be too difficult to get to on foot. Together they removed 1,500 pounds of trash and recyclables from the river.

And across the Pacific in Hawaii, volunteers with the Oahu Chapter also hauled away over 1,500 pounds of trash, most of it fishing nets, which - if left in the ocean - could become “ghost nets” ensnaring marine mammals and devastating coral reefs.

At Surfrider beach cleanups throughout the year, volunteers are asked to fill out a data card, keeping track of each item of trash they pick up. This larger data collection effort helps us learn which types of trash are most common on our beaches and identify ways to prevent it from becoming littered on our beaches in the first place. For example, in San Diego, Surfrider volunteers pick up over 20,000 pieces of polystyrene foam (commonly known as “Styrofoam®”) from San Diego County beaches every year. To stop that flow of trash onto our beaches, the chapter is advocating for a San Diego city-wide foam ban. Beach cleanup data like this and at chapters around the U.S. helps us advance plastic pollution campaigns and policy at the local, state, and national level.

If you missed International Coastal Cleanup Day this past weekend, not to worry! Many of our chapters conduct beach cleanups year-round. Click here to find a chapter in your area and visit their events or Facebook page for a list of upcoming cleanups. And from September 10 through October 31st you can enter for a chance to win some awesome prizes as part of our Found Objects Contest. Just snap a picture of the items you found on the beach (and picked up!) and tag us on social media. Complete contest rules are at https://www.surfrider.org/found-objects.