Surfrider report shows plastic waste continues to dominate beach cleanups
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By C. Jayden Smith
Demonstrating that plastic litter is everywhere, 84% of all items removed from shore in a record number of beach cleanups last year were products made from plastics, according to the 2021 Beach Cleanup Report. the Surfrider Foundation.
The San Clemente-based foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting oceans and beaches, has seen a resurgence in participation that has led to 15,864 volunteers taking part in 1,230 cleanups across the United States and Canada.
Exceeding a long-standing goal of 1,000 cleanups in a year and using a comprehensive system to collect information, the report, released on June 28, noted that plastic items were the 10 most commonly found items .
The South Orange County chapter of the foundation contributed by organizing 22 cleanups and disposing of nearly 700 pounds of trash. Overall, a total of 170,000 pounds of litter was collected from beaches and waterways across the country and Canada.
Cigarette butts, small and large fragments of foam and plastic, plastic food wrappers and plastic straws were among the most frequently found items. Of the 84% plastics, 29% were fragmented, of which 11% were large fragments, defined as larger than a penny.
Tobacco waste, wrappers and tableware were the next highest categories.
In an email to San Clemente Times, Surfrider plastic pollution coordinator Jenny Hart commented on the support the organization has received from volunteers, which nearly doubled the number from the previous year.
Concerted efforts to encourage turnout, along with the country’s natural progression away from the darker stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, contributed to the report, which found there was still work to be done.
“Across the country, our Surfrider beach cleanup volunteers consistently find (that) plastic pollution is a major problem on every beach,” Jennifer Savage, the foundation’s senior director for the Plastic Pollution Initiative, said in a statement. Press.
“As each of the top 10 items found were plastic, our beach cleanup data confirms that plastic is everywhere and is not going anywhere without large-scale legislative change,” Savage continued in the statement.
Hart cited California Senate Bill 54, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on June 30, as tangible legislation the organization is excited to see.
The bill, described as “the first in the country” by Hart, requires all packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, and requires 65% of single-use plastic packaging to be recycled within that time frame. .
It will also raise $5 billion from companies in the plastics industry to help reduce pollution and support disadvantaged communities, according to the Governor’s Office press release.
Hart wrote that the Surfrider Network’s collection of information about the types of beach litter removed, such as plastic straws, syringes and aluminum cans, was key to influencing policy decisions like SB 54.
The report also highlights regional updates and solutions to help solve the plastic pollution crisis.
“On the federal side, we urge Congress to pass the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA),” Hart wrote. “The BFFPPA focuses on source reduction by encouraging reuse/refill models, strengthening the definition of reusable bags, tackling toxic materials more broadly, and closing the loophole for plastic waste exports.”
She added that the law would provide a comprehensive and effective solution to plastic production problems by focusing on pollution throughout the life cycle of plastics.
Hart points out that when going to the beach and in everyday life, people can make a positive impact by using reusable products as much as possible, bringing silverware from home and using containers of storage and cups already in residences.
“If you can’t avoid single-use items, look for products made from wood or natural materials,” Hart wrote. “And (never forget) to ‘pack it in the wrapper’ and take home everything you brought to the beach.” In the report’s conclusion, Surfrider wrote that tackling the global plastic pollution crisis and achieving a sustainable future can only be accomplished by working together.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothers his black lab named Shadow.
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