Plastics continue to play an outsize role in polluting the nation's beaches, new cleanup statistics show.
Surfrider Foundation is out with new numbers from the nonprofit group's cleanup efforts along the Great Lakes region and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the U.S. showing more than 87 percent of all items removed from beaches during the group's cleanup efforts in 2022 were plastics.
Of the top 10 items collected on beaches last year by the group, all were plastics, including 148,505 cigarette butts, which contain plastics in filters.
Fragmented plastics played prominent roles in the top 10 list, with large rigid plastic fragments checking in at No. 2 with 45,205 pieces collected and small rigid plastic fragments No. 3 at 39,815. Surfrider defines small plastic fragments as those smaller than a dime.
Small foam fragments were No. 4 at 39,126 pieces collected, followed by plastic food wrappers at 35,591 and large foam fragments at 31,146. Plastic caps and rings were next, at No. 7, with 27,276, followed by plastic nurdles (small pieces including resin pellets) at 15,343, and plastic bottles at 14,087. Plastic straws rounded out the top 10 at 14,033, the nonprofit said.
Participation in Surfrider cleanup efforts dramatically increased in 2022 compared with 2021, with nearly double the amount of people participating. A total of 30,183 people helped clean beaches in 2022, an increase of 14,319 from the year before.
They collected 143,070 pounds of trash through 1,201 cleanups covering 7,049 volunteer hours. Nearly half of the cleanups, 582, were in California, and 146 were in Hawaii. Other cleanup areas: mid-Atlantic with 229; Southeastern U.S., 50; Florida, 22; Oregon, 43; Washington, 60; Northeast, 55; and Great Lakes, 14.
"These figures continue to confirm, year over year, that plastic is everywhere and it isn't going anywhere without large-scale legislative and industry change shifting away from single-use plastic products," the report states.
Surfrider indicates on its website the group "is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network." A key mission for the group is plastic reduction in marine environments.