Surfrider Foundation’s Annual Beach Cleanup Report Reveals that Nearly 90% of Pollution Across Nation’s Beaches Are Plastic 

San Clemente, Calif., July 15, 2021 – Today, the Surfrider Foundation, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches for all people, released its annual 2020 Beach Cleanup Report. Data collected from the organization’s national Beach Cleanup program reveals that nearly 90% of all items, including the top 10, that were removed from beaches across the U.S. in 2020, were made of plastic. The report also highlights adaptive approaches to protecting the coasts during the COVID-19 pandemic, regional updates and intersectional solutions to help solve the plastic pollution crisis. 

“Plastic pollution is a global crisis and the Surfrider Foundation’s Beach Cleanup program is one essential way we are working to address it,” said the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Coordinator, Jennifer Hart. “The success of the Beach Cleanup program in 2020 is a tribute to our dedicated grassroots network. Across the nation, people came together and showed immense levels
of commitment to the program. We continue to be inspired by the network of activists who push on and fight for a plastic-free future.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Surfrider’s network adapted to safety guidelines and developed new ways, including solo cleanups, to continue to protect the ocean and coasts from plastic pollution. As a result, Surfrider hosted 927 modified beach cleanups, increased coverage by nearly 55% and removed more than 80,000 pounds of trash from the nation’s beaches and waterways in 2020.

“Beach cleanups have always been an instrumental tool for our network to analyze the most common types of items that pollute our beaches so we can work to help pass laws that reduce these items at the source,” said the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Manager, Rachael Coccia. “It’s a constantly evolving program and 2020 was no exception. Instead of shutting down our iconic beach cleanups entirely, we adapted by transitioning to solo cleanups and tracking personal protective equipment as new priority items. The success of last year’s cleanups is a result of the dedication of our volunteers and strength of the program. I'm incredibly proud of the progress we made and I'm so excited to share the results far and wide to support systemic change.”

Beach cleanups and data collection play a crucial role in enabling the public to learn more about the types of waste that end up on the nation’s beaches. With this data, the Surfrider network is able to work proactively to contribute to laws at local, state and national levels to help reduce the use and production of single-use plastics. The organization also uses this information to track trends that indicate the effectiveness of policies intended to keep plastics off the beaches. 

To view results from Surfrider’s Beach Cleanup Report and to get involved, visit


About the Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over one million supporters, activists and members, with more than 170 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 700 victories protecting our coasts. Learn more at