Across the U.S., the Fourth of July is a much-anticipated, widely celebrated summer holiday. For many people living in San Diego, California, it is a chance to spend a day at the beach with family, picnic, watch fireworks over the water, and maybe even set off a few in the sand themselves. Unfortunately, not all Fourth of July beachgoers clean up after themselves properly, which means that once the fun and festivities of the holiday are over, many of San Diego's beaches are left in an extremely littered state.
Enter the Surfrider Foundation, an environmentalist group which, according to their website, is "dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network." The Surfrider Foundation supports many chapters throughout the country, and runs up to 90 campaigns at a time, from data-collecting, to oil spill cleanup, to educational initiatives.
At the San Diego chapter, one such campaign, called the "Post-Fourth of July Morning After Mess Beach Series," serves as a post-holiday lifesaver for San Diego beaches. The campaign includes volunteers from local environmentalist groups I Love a Clean San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper. Together, these concerned San Diego community members clean up littered beaches as quickly as possible after the Fourth of July.
This year, at 9 am on the morning of July 5th, nearly 500 volunteers descended upon four prominent San Diego beaches: Ocean Beach Pier, Belmont Park in Mission Beach, Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach and the Oceanside Pier. By the time the cleanup ended, at noon, they had removed over 800 pounds of debris from the beaches. Most of the litter was made up of plastic items, but also included around 7,000 cigarette butts and 947 pieces of styrofoam.
Such waste, if not properly cleaned up, can wash into the ocean and injure or kill wildlife, including endangered ocean species. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Plymouth University, ocean waste--plastic waste in particular--poses a serious threat to nearly 700 marine species. This makes regular beach cleanup imperative not just to keep beaches enjoyable for use, but to keep oceans and marine life healthy.
Of course, not everything removed during the San Deigo post-holiday cleanup was unsalvageable. Volunteers took time to sort recyclable items from the rest of the waste, guaranteeing that at least some of the litter will go on to have a second life. For their part, Surfrider Foundation organizers feel that the annual cleanup campaign, in addition to various educational campaigns that encourage against holiday litter, are having a positive impact in San Diego, in spite of the large amount of litter they encountered.
As Surfrider Chapter Coordinator, Caroline Canter, told OBRAG, leaders at Surfrider are, "really happy to see the number of volunteers that came out this morning to help clean the beaches after the busy and long holiday weekend." She went on to note that while it is "disappointing to see the beaches trashed, it’s always amazing to see the huge difference that three hours of work can make. We can really see the community coming together to keep San Diego’s beaches clean and beautiful."
Canter's optimism seems well-founded, considering that only a few years ago, in 2014, volunteers removed 1,410 pounds of trash from San Deigo's beaches during their after-holiday cleanup--over 600 pounds more than this year. That's 600 fewer pounds of waste with potential to do harm to ocean wildlife, and that is most certainly something to celebrate.