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San Diegans Clean Up State Beaches On Earth Day

A Vista Community Clinic employee holds out a bag of cigarettes collected fro...

Photo by Jacob Aere

Above: A Vista Community Clinic employee holds out a bag of cigarettes collected from Cardiff State Beach, April 22, 2021.

To mark the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, some San Diego County organizations have been cleaning up state beaches and parks in coastal areas to reduce the greatest solid pollutant in U.S. beaches and waterways — cigarette butts.

Nancy Rocha is program supervisor at Vista Community Clinic. She was picking up trash from tobacco products at Cardiff State Beach in Encinitas on Earth Day.

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“Tobacco waste can be anything from tobacco cigarette butts, to packaging, electronic cigarettes, vaping devices, pods, wrappers — anything of that sort,” she said. “Cigars, anything tobacco, that’s what we are looking for.”

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The cleanup teams also collected data on cigarette trash by location. Dana Stevens of Community Action, Service, and Advocacy, or CASA, said that's because California passed Senate Bill 8 in 2019 which bans smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, at all state parks and beaches.

“The problem with tobacco waste is that it's not biodegradable,” said Stevens, the executive director of CASA. “And it contains poisonous contaminations in it that seep into the environment and contaminate the waterways.”

Stevens added that she hopes there will one day be more signage to make people aware of the no-tobacco use laws at state beaches and parks.

Photo caption:

Photo by Jacob Aere

A Vista Community Clinic employee bends down to sift the sand with her gloved hands for discarded cigarettes at Cardiff State Beach, April 22, 2021.

“We want to educate the public and help them understand — yes come out and enjoy the parks, enjoy the beaches, but leave all of your tobacco products at home.”

While tobacco products are a major pollutant, Rocha said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased other types of waste on San Diego state beaches and parks.

“Definitely there's been an uptick of facemasks, that's something we’ve been finding a lot more often," she said.

RELATED: How The Coronavirus Has Impacted Plastic Pollution

Traditional cigarettes are by far the most littered objects at beaches, but Stevens said e-cigarettes and marijuana products are also part of the problem — in addition to other garbage and forgotten belongings.


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Jacob Aere
Freelance Reporter and Web Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a freelance reporter. In addition to covering the latest news and issues relevant to San Diego, I seek the overlooked voices of our community to tell their stories.

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