Most Litter Hauled from Beaches in 2020 Was Plastic, Foundation Reports

A report on the waste picked up by cleanup crews working along the nation’s beaches and shorelines from the Surfrider Foundation showed almost 90% of the more than 80,000 pounds of trash collected in 2020 was plastic. The foundation, an ocean and beach protection nonprofit, found new ways to structure beach cleanups, like sending volunteers out by themselves instead of in groups, to mitigate the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The report also criticizes the use of bioplastics — an umbrella term that refers to plastic alternatives derived from plants as well as petroleum-based plastic products with additives purported to make them biodegradable. Such materials, Surfrider reports, degrade and break down in the environment in a similar manner to normal plastic, and are also not recyclable. Rachael Coccia, plastic pollution coordinator for the foundation, and Holden Hardcastle, chair of the foundation’s San Francisco chapter, spoke with “Civic” about beach cleanups during the pandemic and the problems with bioplastics.

“A lot of restaurants started ramping up their takeout services. And that means a lot more single-use, and unfortunately, in this day and age, it means a plastic. We’re starting to see some alternatives for takeout that might be paper or fiber-based, but plastic still does remain the most affordable and just the most common.”

— Rachael Coccia

“San Francisco is a big coffee town. So get out there with your reusable coffee mugs. And then patron the places that are accepting those currently. And then, even the places that aren’t, let them know that this is what you want to be using.”

— Holden Hardcastle

A segment from our radio show and podcast, “Civic.” Listen at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 102.5 FM in San Francisco, or online at, and subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify or Stitcher

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