A look back at our 2022 waste collections: which litter was most frequently found on beaches?


The results of the participative and scientific waste collections organized by Surfrider, the Ocean Initiatives, are finally available! Cigarette butts, glass fragments, plastic bags, cotton swabs and fishing nets... Waste continues to accumulate in cities, along rivers and on beaches. Here is a look at the most common litter found in 2022.

The 2022 environmental assessment of our waste collection is an urgent reminder of the need to protect the ocean

In 2022, more than 70,000 people participated in one of the 2175 collections organized by many ocean lovers in the framework of the Ocean Initiatives. The waste collections take place on beaches, but also along waterways (rivers, streams etc. whose course ends directly in the Ocean) or even in cities like Paris, Lille, Marseille and Bordeaux.

Thanks to them, many pieces of waste were collected, including :  

  • 50,925 50 CL of plastic bottles, which represents 70 L of water consumption per day for 1 year
  • 44,190 cotton buds, or 75 times the length of a running track
  • 33,718 lollipop sticks, or 2,765 kg of sugar consumed
  • Odd and miscellaneous items like 3,692 shoes! It's as if each member of the European Parliament had abandoned two pairs of shoes on the floor

Which litter is collected the most?

Here are the top 10 items of waste found in 2022:

        1. The big winner, cigarette butts...  

In total, in 2022, we collected 2,409,580. That's 72 times the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world! 

Their toxic chemical composition makes them extremely polluting and their slow decomposition is aggravated by the presence of plastic in the filters. It is considered that a single cigarette butt pollutes about 1000L of water.  

In addition, filters contain harmful substances that have devastating effects on our environment, the oceans and their ecosystems, as well as on our health.

        2. Plastic fragments 

In this category, we find biomedia, used in many water treatment plants to filter water. These plastic discs, found by the thousands on beaches all over the world, pollute the ocean and the environment. Moreover, if you witness this pollution, you can report it to us.

        3. Metal caps 

Metal caps are often the result of drinking from cans and bottles. Summer drinks on the beach, while enjoyable, should not be synonymous with carelessness. Picking up and checking that there is no more waste is important!

        4. Pieces of glass 

We've all come across small, shiny, colorful pieces of glass on the beach. They usually come from discarded glass bottles that break down into fragments.  

        5. Plastic bags and fragments 

Despite the progressive ban on single-use plastics, such as plastic bags in checkout counters, many are still found abandoned and polluting nature. There are many alternatives like cloth or tote bags!  

        6. Fishing nets and ropes 

Abandoned or lost fishing nets are a major source of marine pollution that can end up washing up on beaches. Moreover, these nets are often made of plastic. 

        7. Polystyrene fragments  

Polystyrene is a light and fragile material that breaks easily into small pieces when exposed to the marine environment. 

        8. Food packaging   

Did you know that more than 400 million tons of plastic are produced each year, 36% of which is used to package our food, beverages, hygiene and manufacturing products, and to transport them? This packaging contributes directly to the plastic pollution of the ocean.

The reuse of packaging, through the implementation of a deposit system is the solution we support to reduce the overall environmental impacts of packaging. 

Read: The deposit return scheme : for the reuse of packaging and the reduction of plastic pollution!

        9. Sweet/ snack wrappers

Unsurprisingly, plastic again and again! Sweet snack wrappers, such as candy bags and chip packets, made of plastic, are common waste that can be found everywhere on the ground.

        10. Bottle tops

The most worrying fact? 75% of the waste we find is single-use. This means that 3 out of 4 pieces of waste are used only once, like plastic water bottles. Plastic remains the number one public enemy of marine life and the ocean. Yet, its production is only increasing. 

Bottle caps are often heavier than other types of plastic waste and tend to accumulate in certain areas of the beach or ocean. 

All of this garbage can take decades or even centuries to completely decompose, which means that it continues to be a hazard to the environment for a very long time.

Read : Plastic: an industrial plague

To learn more, find the complete report here, with all the information and key figures for 2022!

Waste collections accessible everywhere and accessible to all!  

We can limit the inexorable race of waste towards the ocean by participating in waste collections. The organization of a waste collection is accessible to everyone. It also offers a strong moment to gather around the protection of the Ocean. 

For 28 years, the Surfrider community has been organizing waste collections to fight against a major threat that concerns us all: plastic pollution. 

Participants give their time to witness the pollution problems and help solve them.  The data collected during these collection campaigns is essential because it is used to support political and industrial changes on a national and European scale.  

The goal is to raise awareness about the vulnerability of the ocean and to change laws through the analysis of the collected waste.  You have the choice to participate in an existing waste collection or to organize your own! We accompany you every step of the way.  

Take part in one of the biggest collections in Europe! 

On Saturday and Sunday, March 25, we are launching the 2023 Ocean Initiatives weekend and we need your help!   

This is the 29th season of waste collection on beaches, lakes and rivers in Europe. It's an opportunity for the entire Surfrider community to gather around the collections organized by the volunteer branches throughout France.  

Wherever you are, you can organize your own collection or join a collection near you. We count on you to motivate your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors!

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