SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The Surfrider Foundation says it removed about 80,000 pounds of trash from California’s coastal beaches and waterways last year, and the number one item picked up by volunteers: cigarette butts.

Cigarette butts are the single item most collected by Surfrider volunteers. (Courtesy: Surfrider Beach Cleanup Report)

Per its annual Beach Cleanup Report, volunteers picked up 8,131 cigarette butts in San Diego alone. They also found tons of plastics, bottle caps, food wrappers and foam debris.

“Cleanup and individual action certainly helps, however, we will never fix this problem unless we demand that our elected officials hold corporations responsible for the constant and ever-growing stream of plastic pollution they are inundating us with,” said Mitch Silverstein, the San Diego chapter manager to the UT San Diego. “We pay the price in taxpayer-funded cleanup costs, not to mention the toll to our clean water, clean air, clean seafood and marine ecosystems in general.”

According to Surfrider’s 2020 Report, plastic accounted for almost 90 percent of trash removed from beaches nationwide, with almost 3,000 disposable facemasks and gloves being picked up in the last seven months of last year.

Surfrider volunteer beach cleanups in 2020. Most were conducted in California. (Courtesy: Surfrider Beach Cleanup Report)

“What’s worse is that the vast majority of single-use masks and gloves on the market are made from plastic, meaning they will break apart over time and become microplastics, which are now ubiquitous in the environment and our bodies,” said the Surfrider annual report.