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Surfrider's 2022 Beach Cleanup Report: Powered by People

The Surfrider Foundation is pleased to release the 2022 Beach Cleanup Report. The fourth annual report highlights the impacts of our national Beach Cleanup program during 2022 and presents beach cleanup data, regional case studies, current science and how our network was able to grow together and increase our power in the fight against plastic pollution. 

Surfrider’s Plastic Pollution Initiative uses a multi-pronged approach and our Beach Cleanup program is the first step in reducing the amount of plastic ending up in our waterways, on our beaches and ultimately in the ocean. Beach cleanups play a critical role in addressing the plastic pollution crisis. They allow us to learn about the types of plastic that are found on our beaches and provide an entry point for people to learn more about the impacts of single-use plastics on our environment. Our volunteer chapter network conducts local beach cleanups across the nation and removes hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash and recyclables each year. By collecting data during cleanups, we can get detailed information about top littered items and use this data to influence policies at local, state and national levels.


The Surfrider Foundation emphasizes community and connection in everything that we do: We fight together to protect our ocean, waves and beaches. With that in mind, we identified ways in which we could be more inclusive, and create support and space for all people. And though there is still more work to be done, the year 2022 showed us that the work we are doing brings people together. Together, across 1,201 cleanups, 30,183 volunteers removed over 140,000 pounds of trash and recycling from the environment to ultimately reduce the flow of plastic pollution into our ocean. We nearly doubled the amount of volunteers engaged in beach cleanups with an additional 14,319 activists cleaning our coasts compared to 2021. This is a huge accomplishment and speaks volumes to the work Surfrider is doing on the ground to engage local communities and prove that the beach belongs to everyone. 


The 2022 Beach Cleanup Report features regional case studies from Surfrider’s chapter and student club network that show how our grassroots network is truly bringing people together to protect our ocean, waves and beaches. From working closely with indigenous tribes to protect natural spaces to community-centric cleanup events that attracted hundreds of volunteers, Surfrider’s coastal activists prioritized inclusivity into their cleanup efforts, bringing people together to protect our special places. 


The report also examines expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, a type of cheap plastic, and takes a deep dive into what exactly EPS foam is, why it poses widespread threats and what Surfrider is doing to solve the problem. EPS foam has negative impacts at nearly every stage of its life. From emitting greenhouse gasses during manufacturing and leaching carcinogens during use to being easily littered, disrupting feeding habits of wildlife and breaking up into hard-to-cleanup pieces, the only solution is to use less of it. But how do we do that, exactly? 


In 2022, our chapters worked hard on expanded polystyrene bans to mandate change and eliminate this harmful type of single-use plastic. Surfrider’s San Diego and Los Angeles Chapters both passed EPS Foam Bans. These major victories mean that San Diego and Los Angeles are now among eight states and countless other cities to pass expanded polystyrene foam bans and regulations. 


The Better Beach Alliance was founded in 2018 by the Surfrider Foundation and our Surf Industry Coastal Defender partner, REEF, to increase the effectiveness and overall impact of Surfrider’s national Beach Cleanup program through standardization and improved tools. For three years, REEF’s financial commitment to the Better Beach Alliance has expanded internationally to also support Surfrider Foundation Europe. In 2022, REEF set out to extend the engagement in multiple countries for our first global cleanup campaign with Surfrider’s many international affiliates. 

The complete 2022 Beach Cleanup Report is available to view here. We’re incredibly grateful to have a dedicated network of volunteers and sponsors who share our love for the ocean. We encourage you to join us by connecting with your local Surfrider chapter to participate in this beach cleanup program that provides crucial data to implement widespread changes to stop plastic pollution at the source. When we all work together to fight single-use plastics, we can keep our ocean and beaches clean from plastic pollution today and for future generations.