For almost a year, I have gone out almost everyday and picked up beach trash on a 1/4 mile strip of beach in Mission Beach. I only do the tide to towel line which ranges anywhere from 10- 100 feet. I mostly save the firepits, trash cans for the people who make a living from recycling. Where, I live, Mission Beach, is designated as one of Coastal Keepers ‘Hot Spots’, meaning they have the MOST amount of trash with Ocean Beach coming in 2nd.
Since January 14, 2013, I have picked up and donated or given away: (This is only the stuff that can be reused or donated)
Backpacks (3) , Bathing suits (4), BBQ spits (7), Beach Mats (6), Blankets (12), Boogie Boards (10), Cups (6), Dishes (4), Dresses (4), Fins (14), Flashlights (3) Knives (3) Shovel (1), pliers (2), Hats (25). Jackets (4), Jewelry (30 misc), LifeVest (2), Masks (13), Pacificers (14), Pillows (1), Rags (4 bags), Scarves (4), Shawls (6), Sheets, (16), Shirts (4), Shoes (397 paired) Shoes (250 unpaired) Shorts (7) Silverware (6), Skim Boards (2), Socks (343) Sunglasses (52), Sweats (14) Tee (302) Thermos (3), Towels (235), Toys (2142), Umbrellas (3), Assorted Underwear (40) Water bottles (7) Surf Camera (1), Belts (5), Ear-buds (3) This isn’t counting the clothes, shoes, toys that I haven’t even sorted and cleaned yet. Add in another 4,000+ broken toys and sundry items. Plus over 30 cell phones, purses, wallets which were successfully returned to owners. Add in bags of ‘Rags’ which include trashed clothes, towels, sheets and socks.
In addition, I just mailed 72 pounds of beach trash to a company for them to do a poster. Let’s not even go into 20 cellphones, wallets, purses, Ear buds (3) Toys I have given away to neighbors kids. I can’t even tell you how many boogie boards, I have thrown away, how many shoes, towels, blankets, I have let go because I couldn’t carry them. Add in 35 pounds of glow sticks (toxic and plastic) 23 pounds of lighters, over 50 pounds of fishing lines, and an average of 40 balloons and parts daily, 78 Tennis Balls. At last count over 20,000 bottle caps. One day, I watched one of the City Beach workers, drive down the beach and on the way, he picked up and threw away 5 towels. That is just a start.
Everyday, it is at least 2 large plastic bags of primarily plastic trash and styrofoam cups and take-out containers that are just left on the beach. I collect an average of 50 bottles (plastic and glass) a day, an average of 53 water bottles/day. Cigarette butts, styrofoam, fast food, plastic silverware and straws are too numerous to count. The best thing I have found pot, the worst is dirty diapers, used tampax, pads and condoms.
And the waste! A product of our disposable lifestyle. I finally found someone who will take the discarded and full sunscreen (over 50 bottles) shampoo and lotions, barrettes, hairbands, lip balms, drugs. Chapstick (toxic and not good for you is 99 cents, but Burts Bees is $4.99, at least 1 a day.
The waste continues: Beach chairs, patio furniture, new towels, new beach mats, tents, canopies, sleeping bags, backpacks, knives, shovels, flashlights…
Food Waste It is not unusual to pick up unopened packages of bread, chocolate, cookies, chips, graham crackers and candy. I have found sandwiches, pizza and mexican food strewn all over the beach. Add in 100′s of condiment packages including salsa. What a waste. In San Diego, it is said in a new study that nearly 460,00 peole in San Diego County do not know where their next meal is coming from. 15% of San Diego county is impacted by hunger . (Feeding America, San Diego.) Those water bottles are full and from one day.
And what to do with the shoes! The problem with recycling shoes, is that organizations such as Terracycle have ‘good paired’ shoes listing. I have recycled to Terracycle, good to great shoes at Community Resource Center, I have nailed shoes on my fence and planted in, but I only have so much fence! The sheer amount of single shoes and broken shoes… and these are not all cheap shoes, Sanuk, Reefs, Tevas, Rainbow, Birkenstocks all of which I have have one of. Count in over 80 socks a week and parts of shoes, mainly insoles. Most shoes I have picked up in 1 day- 20 assorted paired and unpaired.
I don’t know what to do with them? Any ideas? I have considered sticking them in my crawl space attic for insulation, build a fence? Use for art?
Cups and fast food are only a part of the problem. One of the worst is styrofoam. (500 years to biodegrade). Cheap Boogie boards made with styrofoam ($10) break very easily, People just leave them behind to break up even more and the little ‘nuggets’ are strewn throughout the beach. The bird peck at them. Banning Styrofoam would be a huge step. Cities in California that have banned styrofoam food packaging: Berkeley, San Francisco, Malibu, Alameda, Emeryville,Fairfax, Hercules, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles City, Millbrae, Monterey, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Pittsburg, Palo Alto, Pacific Grove, San Bruno, Santa Monica, Orange County . (More cities here)
Everyday sight in in front of Belmont Park: 1- 10 boogie Boards, most look like the below examples/ Banning these types of boogie boards would be fantastic. The most boogie boards, I have picked up in one day 10. Add in the broken leashes (about 5 day), the packaging and what a mess.
One of my pet peeves is plastic water bottles. Water bottles is #1 and Gatorade is #2. Over 30% of the bottles collected have never been drunk from. In other words wasted water, wasted money and wasted oil. A plastic bottle has many parts, first is the first clear packaging over the nozzle, then the packaging on the label, and the ‘sealer’ on the inside of the cap, the cap itself and the bottle. Every 10 feet or so, there is a plastic bottle part.
What else is banned from the beach? Glass, alcohol and cigarettes. Glass bottles, primarily BEER and Jim Beam (an average of 10 bottles/day. Of the 50 cans I pick up over 50% are beer. Do the lifeguards ticket them NOT! People even smoke and drink right in FRONT of the Lifeguard towers in the middle of the day. (I have seen them) and nothing is said. When asked a Lifeguard, told me he is not going to ‘RISK, his life’ to ticket them. I thought that was their job, saving lives.. but what do I know.
There are other salvagers, most of the metal detector guys, will pick up the broken glass, put the toys on the firepits for others. Some will try to return cell phones and lost wallets directly to the person. Two of the metal detector groups will NOT return lost items to the Lifeguards, because they have done spot checks and found the items in pawn shops. (Now that is interesting)
Transients do a pretty good job with recyclable plastic and aluminum if they get their before the trash guys. Rarely do they pick up glass (too heavy) Many get their clothes and food off the beach. Transients rarely go on the sand to pick up bottles.
My friend Mike and his friends are a discerning salvagers. He picks up sunglasses, beach chairs, towels, Surfboard fins, leashes, scuba and surf gear, Go Pro’s, canopies, tents, good shoes, watches and resells them. He is one of the few and many that hits those low tides to pick up the good stuff.
Jerry and his wife walk and pick up trash, Kimberly, when she is running, throws bottles out of the tide for me to pick up later. I have spoken with Tourists, who are so disgusted, they are picking up trash. I can’t even tell you how many tourists who have asked me if the beach is always this bad.
One morning, after my 4 bags of trash, and the Beach Rakers, San Diego Coastal Keeper with 51 Volunteers from Kaiser picked up 84.5 more pounds of
Their Preliminary Figures:
- 2,283 items removed from the beach. This includes (but is not limited to:
- 1,423 cigarette butts
- 62 Styrofoam pieces
- 72 plastic bags 95 plastic lids, straws, and cups
- 145 plastic bottle caps
- 152 plastic fragments
Of the 4-6 bags of trash and litter I pick up a day, 90% is recyclable and or reusable. 2 full bags are sealed and thrown away. (Stopping Seagulls) and the other 2-3 bags are toys to towels. Anything to keep things out of the landfills and or let those in need have some necessary items.
Terracycle has recycling program for ‘Solo Cups’, (10-50/day), Capri Drinks (30/Day) good paired shoes, candy wrappers (100/day), cigarette butts. All are on the beach. Even the tupperware is recycleable (about 3/day). Unfortunately, the time, the space to sort through all the recycleables is just too much. I already spend from 1-3 hours a day collecting, sorting, washing reusable stuff.
Sadly, I have tried to become plastic free and had to actually go out and buy plastic bags to pick up trash. I use buckets and plastic bags found on the beach as much as possible, but it is not enough. Sadly again, my house has become a sand dune. My back is filled with recycleable materials, the front is full of beach trash art and the inside is full of sand and drying beach toys and bottle caps. (I have no garage.) The neighbors don’t know what to say, I think they are in shock at the sheer amount of waste. But they all know by now those 10 towels drying get donated.
So who litters? If you ask the locals, they say the Mexicans and other other ethnic groups. The truth of the matter is everyone litters. Beach toys, napkins (about 100/day) get ground into the sand or the tide comes up and parents don’t pay attention. I have asked young surfers to pick up their trash, I have asked, Asians, Black, Hispanics, Germans, French and whites to pick up their trash. In the summer, you get larger bits of trash, more napkins, more broken umbrellas and chairs.
I have made up a list of who litters:
Filthy Family Parties
This is the families, who cannot live with towels, 50 beach toys, packs of napkins, wet-ones, shoes, Tees, bags of snack food, straws, plastic cups, wrappers, diapers and leave it all behind. They are trucking in bandaids, sun screen, chairs, canopies, ice-chests, tables, balloons and the kitchen sink. It gets dark and the kids get tired and everything is left behind. There is a direct correlation of fat people and litter. I am sorry to say this, but when I go out in the late afternoon, I make a note of the ‘larger’ people and their stuff and guess what, it is still there the next day.
Lets Get Drunk and Screw Crowd or the Gauche Gen Y’s
This is the after 6 crowd, who come down with a Pizza or Mexican food, a six pack of beer, condoms, cell phones. They get drunk and decide to go swimming, all the clothes get off and guess what, they can’t find their clothes, cell phone, shoes.. (About 3/ week) Trash is left behind for others to pick. up. Underwear, condoms, candles… I will never have to buy another candle again!
Judging from the amount of hotel towels, sheets, shampoos, ice-buckets, I find from the local hotels. They come to the beach unprepared with their own, take the stuff from the hotel and just leave it. Over 50% of the towels found are from hotels.
Sanctimonious Sports People
I say Sanctimonious, because it is ‘Wow.. look at me.. I am in Shape..’ The latest trend is the ‘outdoor exercise’ companies who leave behind the markers, water bottles, Tees, clothes, sports bars. The worst is the volleyball crowd. The Trashy South Mission Beach Volleyballers can leave behind 4 bags of trash daily over 10-17 Volleyball courts. Add in their shoes and clothes…
I have learned is the summer trash is almost the exact same as the winter trash. The Fall, Winter, Spring, bring the students, who are most likely to get drunk, (more bottles), better clothes, more pot, more lighters, more junk food, more toothbrushes, more shampoo and cash.. We have a lot of USD students during the school season and they are the WORSE. Too much money from MOM AND DAD. The things they throw away and don’t seem to care about.
Professional Salvagers just laugh at the ‘Rich’ people. That is why they love La Jolla. Kayaks, Canoes, Canopies and more, that the Rich, buy for the day and just leave behind. I have only picked up 1 surfboard and gave it to some kids.
This is only the tide to towel line on 1/4- 1/2 mile of beach. If I think this is bad, try checking out the acres of grassy areas and parking lots and rest stations. One day, I picked up at one rest station at Belmont park 10 clothing items.
What it really amounts to is a lack of respect. Lack of respect to the rental houses, hotels, whose sheets and towels that are left on the beach. A lack of respect to other beach goers, by leaving dirty diapers, smoking, glass bottles and trash for other people to enjoy. A lack of respect to the city and people of San Diego, who is paying for them to have a clean beach and a lack of respect for the environment.
We need clean beaches, not only for the health of the ocean, but for a city like San Diego, we rely on tourists for our income. Tourists do not want to come to a dirty beach.
Who Cleans Up The Beach Trash?
On Facebook, one of my friends made a comment, they have beach cleaners. That is another story. Some are good and some are very bad. First there are the guys that do the Raking of the beach. Raking goes down 2-3 inches and hopefully gets all the trash. Unfortunately you can follow right behind and pick up a couple of more bagfuls of bottle caps, napkins, candy wrappers, plastic bags. The below is from 3 days. Note, toys, Tee’s and shoes.
Then there is the Trash Pickers. These are the guys in dump trucks who hopefully get out of the truck with pickers and buckets and pick up the beach. Then there is the Sanitation guys, who empty the trash cans. There are also the Earth Movers, who move around sea weed and ramp up the levee’s in the winter. They also clean up the firepits, move the lifeguard stations, build up sand along the sea wall.
Before I go on, I DO NOT know everything they are supposed to do. What I do know, we can have a more efficient system. On a couple of Saturday’s and Sundays, there were 5 trucks on the beach. I and all my beach friends haven’t figured out what they were doing. You would think the beach would be sparkling, NOT. One of the dump trucks had a guy, who set up the dump trucks cans and was picking up around the trash cans. I went up later to re-clean. Another dump truck went right down the middle of the beach and didn’t pick up anything. The funny thing and most disturbing, was I was leaving ‘mini’ piles of trash for them to pick up and guess what.. no pickup. Just a wondering of how long would it take them to pick it up? Try 3 days. There is one woman who drives up and down the beach in a dump truck and I have never seen her pick up anything.
Like any company, there are slackers and non-slackers. What the beach cleaners don’t understand, is how many people are watching them and complaining about our tax payer dollars and wondering what they do. What I know, is they (beach cleaners) can’t go on the ‘wet’ during Grunion Season. (March- August) Got it, so I pick up the tide line (WET) the glass, the beer cans, the styrofoam. But, some (not all) of the pickers seem only to do directly down the middle of the beach, where there is NO TRASH. The majority of the trash is at the tide to towel line, which can be (depending on tide) about 50 feet away. Some of the pickers don’t even go there. I even leave ‘piles’ for them to pick up, make it easier… I have watched the pickers pass right by large obvious stacks of trash.
What Does It Cost?
What does this beach clean up cost? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contracted Kier Associate to do a cost analysis of 90 Coastal Cities: (Full Report) San Diego spends over $14 Million Dollars to keep our beaches clean. That is an underestimate, it could cost up to $20 Million of our Taxpaying dollars.
- According to the 2010 Census nearly fifty million people live in California, Oregon and Washington. If 85 % of this population lives in coastal communities and along rivers leading to the Pacific Ocean – a percentage the team suggests is conservative – then these West Coast communities are spending more than $520,000,000 – over one half billion dollars – each year to combat litter and curtail marine debris.
- On the most recent International Coastal Cleanup Day, 598,076 volunteers collected some 9,184,428 pounds of trash from 20,776 miles of beaches. Eighty percent of the debris collected was comprised of the top ten items found (in descending order: cigarettes; caps/lids; plastic beverage bottles; plastic bags; food wrappers/containers; cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons; glass beverage bottles; straws, stirrers; beverage cans; and paper bags).
In San Diego (a few stats from the Survey)
- San Diego Coastkeeper spends $248,160; San Diego River Park Foundation ‐ $94,005. This value was calculated using a volunteer wage rate of $21.36/hour. This value is a significant underestimate for two reasons: first, all San Diego Coastkeeper cleanups were calculated as two hours per volunteer, but Coastal Cleanup Day is a three‐hour event; and second, it does not account for other organizations and private businesses that participate in cleanup efforts around the City.
- The report estimates the average cost for comprehensive litter control programs in a region the size of San Diego County could cost as much as $20 million.
- CalTrans District 11 ‐‐ This value was calculated as 12.92% of a total cost of $4,302,802. The County of San Diego is 4,199.89 square miles in area, and the City of San Diego is 325.188 square miles in area; therefore, the City of San Diego is 12.92 of the County by area.
- CalTrans District 11: Public Awareness Campaign: $969; Storm Water Division, City of San Diego: Education and Outreach: $1,200,000 ‐
- Private people (not just me) Coastal Keepers, Surfriders with volunteer beach cleanups that could save the region approximately $2.5 million annually in beach debris cleanup.
- In 2012, more than 4,000 volunteers removed almost 7,600 pounds of trash, about an average of 1.7 pounds per person.
- Of the 181,776 pieces of trash collected in 2012, nearly 40 percent was cigarette butts (a considerable increase from 2011). Plastic pieces accounted for 30 percent of the total number of items, including parts of bags, bottles, cups, straws, food wrappers and other plastic items.
What Are The Solutions?
1.) Ban styrofoam and cheap boogie boards on the beach. Other cities have done it, we can too.
2.) Ban plastic bags from stores. Other cities have done it, we can too.
3.) Ban Balloons from the beach.
4.) Enforce the NO Drinking, No Smoking, No Glass laws and TICKET them. The lifeguards can ticket.
5.) Encourage local business like the Posidian Shop (Weekly Litter Cleanup Sundays at 12:00)to have a least a monthly beach clean up. With all the businesses in Pacific Beach and Mission Beach taking a section of the beach and working together to pick up daily.
6.) In the summer put out more trash cans on the beach and in the Parking lots.
7.) Put up a RePlanet at Parking Lots to encourage recycling of plastic bottles, aluminum and glass bottles.
8.) Continue with Eduction by making people more aware.
9.) Put up Artistic Sculptures made of Trash. (other cities do it)
10.) Put up storyboards on the effect of trash and litter in parking lots and Lifeguard Stations
11.) Have the lifeguards, make announcements, Thank you for picking up your trash, no smoking on the beach, no drinking on the beach.
12.) Put up Large signs on the Volleyball and Basketball courts to pick up trash,
13.) Put up Large Signs ‘Please Pick Up Your Trash” spread on the lights in the parking lot.
14.) Encourage places such as Belmont Park to put up large recycling bins.
I often think about this, if I spent more time and covered a larger area, you could live off the beach.
- Fishing: Using a Savalged fishing pole- there is plenty of bait (Sand Crabs) plenty of lures, plenty of hooks and fishing line. You can catch fish. Roy (fisherman) catches Perch and Corvina and Shovel Nose Sharks. I have found lobsters. Fishing licenses are $40/year.
- You can eat Kelp and Seaweed. Think Sushi.
- Liquids; Plenty of unused Water bottles, liquor, cokes are found daily on the beach.
- Unopened bread, cookies, candy, Clif Bars and chips are usual.
- Plenty of clothes. I have picked up new clothes, new shoes, underwear (men and women)
- Keeping warm- towels, blankets and sheets are the norm. Tents and canopies, sleeping bags are fairly common.
- Aluminum, plastic and glass, even in a small area, you can make $10/day
- Reselling boogie boards, Surf and scuba gear, towels, clothing, shoes- make $300/ month
- If you are artistic and want to make art, plenty of plastics and driftwood. You might be able to make a living off of art.
- Sunscreen, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes (not that I would use) toothpicks, lotions, sanitizers, makeup are readily available.
I am going to continue to pick up beach trash, it’s good exercise, it’s good for the environment and it helps people in need. If you think about what could all the dollars wasted and thrown on the beach…what else could have been done with it?