baker beach cleanup

My first beach cleanup (Baker Beach, San Francisco)

“Six million tonnes (!!) of rubbish enters the world’s oceans every year and plastics are the most common man made objects sighted at sea”


I finally made it to my first beach cleanup! I’ve been trying to attend one for so long but other commitments always got in the way. I’m glad I got to participate in a cleanup of a city beach as it was quite eye opening. Here I was thinking there wouldn’t be too much rubbish to collect as this was a beach in a fairly clean city in a first world country. How naive and wrong I was!

The beach cleanups in San Francisco are organised by a great organisation called the Surfrider Foundation.

Surfrider foundation

The Surfrider mission:

‘The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

Our staff of nearly 50 people help support our chapter network in their campaigns, champion for policy and fight legal battles for our coasts, bring awareness to the issues facing our ocean, provide critical support on stuff like accounting, technology, and HR, and raise money to make all of this happen. We have an appetite for adventure and we all share a common passion – we love and appreciate our ocean, waves and beaches.’




The Baker Beach cleanup in particular came about after the concern of two local citizens; husband and wife team, John von Eichhorn and Eva Holman who had found themselves picking up rubbish during their regular dog walks. Eva got in touch with the National Park Service and the Surfrider Foundation who were more than happy to work together and sponsor John and Eva to host monthly cleanups with the NPS providing all the necessary cleanup tools – buckets, gloves and pickers.

Both John and Eva have gone on to become much more involved with the Surfrider Foundation with Eva now heading the ‘Rise above Plastics’ campaign here in San Francisco and working with programs to find plastic alternatives and provide education for the community. Lots of information about the campaigns Eva is working on can be found




35 keen people showed up for the cleanup, which was a great turn out considering it was a cold, grey and windy day. John gave us a brief explanation of the work we would be doing and then warned us that we would come across a lot of styrofoam.

Donned with my gloves and bucket I made my way down the sandy pathway to the beach and found my first few pieces of rubbish along the way. Plastic wrappers and cigarette butts. I honestly didn’t think I would find rubbish so quickly.

I then spotted some more rubbish up in the fenced off dune area which led me to more and more. I ended up spending the first 45 mins of the cleanup in the dune area. I hadn’t even made it to the beach yet.

For about an hour and a half, I couldn’t go 3-4 steps without bending down to pick up some kind of rubbish. It’s safe to say by the end of the 2 hours I was pretty annoyed with the world!




The list of rubbish I collected was diverse and left me speechless!

  • A used, dirty nappy!!!
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Plastic ‘wads’ from inside shotgun casings
  • Straws
  • Spray cans
  • Beer bottles
  • Plastic takeaway cups
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Beer bottle caps
  • Clothing
  • Food wrappers – muesli bars and chips
  • Lolly wrappers
  • Straw wrappers from juice boxes
  • Broken glass
  • Curtain ring
  • Parts of kid’s toys
  • cigarette butts
  • Styrofoam (including cups)
  • Tiny pieces of styrofoam
  • Tiny pieces of plastic

As you can see from this extensive list, no type of rubbish is too trashy for this beach!


rubbish bucket beach cleanup


The buckets we used to collect the trash had a 5 gallon (18.9L) capacity and I was only able to fill one bucket in two hours. This may seem like a pretty woeful effort but even though there were quite a few large pieces of rubbish, most of it was tiny pieces of styrofoam and hard plastic. John wasn’t kidding around.


A range of microplastics. I didn’t even have to move from my squatting position to pick these up.


spot the plastic beach cleanup
Can you spot the plastic? If we can’t identify it straight away, how are marine animals and birds meant to tell the difference?!


micro plastics beach cleanup
White styrofoam and several other small pieces of plastic – blue and red


curtain ring beach cleanup
So many random pieces of rubbish – a curtain ring


These are the exact tiny pieces of styrofoam and hard plastic that never break down completely and are being fatally ingested by marine animals and birds. They are also the same tiny pieces that are helping make up the plastic population of the garbage patches found in all the oceans.

All in all, our combined efforts collected 85 pounds of garbage/recycling in 2 hours of collection. On a sunnier day when there is a better turnout of people, between 125 and 200 pounds of garbage is usually collected. Amongst the 85 pounds we collected were 350 cigarette butts!!


350 cigarette butts beach cleanup

tools and trash beach cleanup


Rubbish arrives on beaches via a few different but similar methods – street litter that has found its way to the beach via rains and stormwater drains, litter that has been physically left on the beach and rubbish that has been swept in to shore via ocean currents. All of this litter has originated from humans and full responsibility lies with us.

Six million tonnes (!!) of rubbish enters the world’s oceans every year and plastics are the most common man made objects sighted at sea. More than 100,000 turtles, fish and marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and seals are killed by plastic marine litter every year around the world. These figures are tough to swallow!!


my rubbish haul beach cleanup


I recommend everyone go and participate in a beach cleanup or some kind of envirmonmental cleanup. If they aren’t already, it will really help open your eyes to the state of our environment. It may make you a little angry with the selfish and lazy people of this world but you will also be inspired by the people who give up their own time to organise community environmental projects; like John and Eva. Either way, you’ll be doing something positive for our beautiful Earth.


Love Kat xx


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