Adopt a Beach: Hold On to Your Butt

Shark Stewards is leading the Bay marine debris prevention effort along with the Surfrider Foundation, City of San Francisco and other partners to reduce plastic pollution in the Bay Tributaries, San Francisco Bay and adjacent beaches in the Hold On to Your Butt Campaign. With the San Francisco Dolphin Club, we are taking a beachhead by adopting Aquatic Park Beach, conducting beach clean ups, quantifying plastic pollution, marine debris and cigarette butts, and helping reduce butt waste through placement of receptacles. Working with the National Park Services on signage and installing butt recepatacles we will help educate beach visitors and reduce cigarette butts discarded onto the sand, in drains and adjacent streets and walkways.  Currently in planning phase, we are seeking funding to implement this program, and bring San Francisco city youth from adjacent schools to help clean up, learn about marine ecosystems and our impacts, including cigaraette butt waste.

Hold On to Your Butt: The Need

This campaign aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of cigarette butt litter on our oceans, waves and beaches, and to help eliminate cigarette butt litter in San Francisco County and beyond to the Bay and Pacific Ocean.   Cigarette butts account for approximately one in every five items collected during our beach cleanups.  Commonly littered on our sidewalks and streets, butts end up in our storm drains, flowing to our streams, rivers, bays, lagoons and ultimately the ocean. Cigarette butts are non degradable materials that concentrate toxins. These plastics, carcinogens and other toxins are killing marine wildlife from fish to seabirds.

The Environmental Impact of Cigarette Butts:

  • An estimated 4.95 trillion cigarette butts are disposed of in our environment annually worldwide.
  • Cigarette butts leach toxins when wet, like Cadmium, Lead, Arsenic and organic carcinogens  posing a threat to marine life.
  • Litter clean up costs the U.S. over 11 billion annually, cigarette butts represent an estimated 32% of that litter.
  • Cigarette butts are composed of cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic, which can take up to 25 years to decompose.
  • More than 1.03 million cigarette butts were removed from American beaches in 2011 as part of the annual international coastal cleanup by the Ocean Conservancy, making it the most commonly littered item and representing 28 percent of all debris collected.
  • Littered cigarette butts pose a significant fire threat.
Objectives of Program:
  • Installing outdoor ashcans near beaches and waterways leading to the Bay and Ocean throughout the County, with a 50% reduction in cigarette butt litter aimed in those areas
  • Distributing pocket ashtrays to smokers
  • Raising community awareness through events such as an annual Hold On To Your Butt Day, and the America’s Cup
  • Advocating for stronger law enforcement of litter laws
  • Implementing a city, county and state beach ordinances to ban smoking on the beach or 100 yards from shore.

Surfrider San Diego has installed approximately 150 ashcans in San Diego County, with a 65% reduction in butts where ashcans are installed. View the interactive map here.  They also have a sponsor an ashcan using the Ash Can Sponsorship Form

Following the lead of 30 Southern California Beaches, we will reduce this impact on our beaches, waterways and  marine wildlife.

Starting at Aquatic Park, this initiative aims to spread along the City shorelines and along Ocean Beach. All butts collected will be recycled bt tetramar

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Shark Stewards is a non-profit project of the Earth Island Institute.

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