35th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day: Single Use Plastics & Cigarette Butts Most Pollution Collected

Courtesy Photo: I Love a Clean San Diego

Plastic in all its forms is still the most prolific and dangerous threat to the region’s ecosystem and marine life.

 In just three hours on Saturday, September 21st, more than 6,500 volunteers cleared nearly 145,000 pounds (72,500 tons) of waste and debris from streets, canyons, parks and the coastline in communities across San Diego County for the 35th annual Coastal Cleanup Day, organized by the nonprofit I Love A Clean San Diego. The day’s environmental protection effort took place at 107 sites around the region and prevented the equivalent of 5,500 garbage trucks emptying their contents into the ocean.

For the 35th year in row, since Coastal Cleanup Day’s inception, plastic in all its forms remains the chief polluter collected throughout San Diego County today. From food wrappers to cups and water bottles to fast-food containers, single-use plastics were found across parking lots, public parks, within canyons and around schools.

Cigarette butts remain the most littered individual item. Many cigarette butts were discovered within feet of the water along the coast, trapped in gutters that flow to the ocean, and tossed near waterways in the inland communities. Cigarette butt filters are made of plastic, do not biodegrade and are full of harmful toxins that pollute the environment when left behind.

Among the debris collected were several notable odd items, including a reclining chair, refrigerator, wheelchair, plastic Christmas tree, messages in a bottle at Swami’s State Beach, rice cooker, restaurant pager and a guitar case.

Conservation Tips:

  1. Visit WasteFreeSD.org to learn more about how to recycle effectively to reduce contaminated materials from the blue bin. And, see what waste goes to the landfill and use reusable items instead.
  2. Work to eliminate single-use plastics from your lifestyle and switch to reusable alternatives.
  3. Smokers: Please make sure your cigarette is disposed of properly and not discarded on the street. And, if you desire quitting, consult a physician to discuss a plan to stop smoking.

Volunteers included residents, corporate groups, and civic organizations who turned their appreciation for the region’s beauty into action by not only cleaning up waste, but also completing restoration projects such as painting, graffiti removal, non-native vegetation removal, mulching, trail restoration and weeding.

Coastal Cleanup Day was an opportunity for the community members to conserve in more ways than one. As part of the effort to boost zero-waste practices, I Love A Clean San Diego encouraged all volunteers to be more sustainable by choosing to bring reusable items to the cleanup such as reusable water bottles, work gloves and buckets. Volunteers had the opportunity to showcase their creativity and commitment to zero-waste practices by decorating reusable buckets to enter the Bling Your Bucket Contest for a chance to win prizes while celebrating sustainability.

I Love A Clean San Diego organizes Coastal Cleanup Day in San Diego County in partnership with the California Coastal Commission as part of a global international event led by the Ocean Conservancy.

Coastal Cleanup Day is one of two annual countywide cleanups, which includes the Creek to Bay cleanup on April 25, 2020, hosted by I Love A Clean San Diego that engage thousands of local families, community groups and local businesses. Beyond countywide events, I Love A Clean San Diego continues to empower volunteers at hundreds of cleanups targeting specific neighborhoods, parks, and open spaces on an ongoing basis throughout the year. In 2018, the nonprofit mobilized over 34,000 volunteers who removed more than 357,000 pounds of trash and debris from the San Diego County landscape. For more information about upcoming cleanups, workshops, or zero-waste tips, please visit CleanSD.org.