California Coastal Cleanup Day

The 33rd annual California Coastal Cleanup Day will take place this coming Saturday, September 16th from 9am to 12 noon.

In 2016, almost 60,000 people volunteered to help pick up trash and debris along our state's beaches that span 15 coastal counties but also to remove refuse from inland streams, rivers, bays and lakes. 


The event takes place over three hours and in that time, the 60,000 volunteers picked up over 710,000 pounds of trash including wrappers, bottles, cans, cigarettes, which comprise a significant percentage of the litter volunteers pick up, old tires, plastic bags and more.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the items discovered during the yearly cleanup days remain largely unchanged, despite our changes in population and the economy. Certain items, however, have declined, thanks to the induction of recent environmental laws.

The SJMN states:

From 1989 to 2014, the most common item picked up was a cigarette butt — more than 6.9 million of them. They made up 37 percent of the items collected. Second were food wrappers and containers, at 10 percent, and third were caps and lids, at 8 percent. Paper and plastic bags, cups, plates and utensils, straws and glass bottles were also commonly found.


In recent years, as cities and counties banned supermarket plastic bags, the number of plastic bags littering the state dropped dramatically.

In San Francisco, which banned single-use plastic bags in 2008, plastic bags made up 9.1 percent of all the trash collected that year on Coastal Cleanup Day. By 2012 that percentage had fallen to 6.2. And by 2014, it was 3.8 percent.

Similarly, statewide in 2008 volunteers picked up 52,544 plastic bags on Coastal Cleanup Day. But by 2015, that number had fallen by more than half to 23,441.

Although cleaning litter and debris from urban creeks may not seem as glamorous as spending a day at the ocean, much of the trash that is found on coastal beaches and in San Francisco Bay begins on city streets. It then washes down storm drains and into creeks before flowing out into the bay and ocean, experts explain.

“Trash in the bay not only pollutes our waters, it’s also harmful to animals, especially marine mammals,” said Oakland-based Save the Bay spokeswoman, Kate Harle. “It also reduces people’s enjoyment of the bay. And plastic trash never fully goes away. It never biodegrades. It is with us forever.”

Eben Schwartz, marine debris program manager at the California Coastal Commission, which oversees the annual coastal cleanup event, says, “It is a lot of fun. You spend a day at the beach, or in a creek, or in a natural area. It’s a chance to give back.”

Photo credits: Mason Trinca

Photo credits: Mason Trinca

For 2017, 55 of California's 58 counties will be participating; the three hold-outs are all very rural, inland areas with small populations.

Volunteers are still needed for this Saturday's Coastal Cleanup, which runs from 9am to 12pm. The Costa Group encourages those who live, work and play in San Francisco or Marin County to sign up! It is a great way to spend a day at one of our local beaches or waterways and make your mark in a positive ay that gives back to the community that gives so much.

To sign up, visit or call 800-COAST-4U.

Coastal Cleanup Day
Saturday, September 16th
9am to 12pm

Article excerpt from the San Jose Mercury News, Paul Rogers 9/11/2017.