A trashed beach isn’t just ugly, it’s also expensive.
One would assume that the economic cost of polluted beaches comes from having to clean them up, but in fact there’s another aspect involved: the recreational costs.
A new economic report by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program looking at Orange County found that because the cleanliness of a beach is of top concern to beachgoers, they will drive farther to find a less polluted one. That means a higher economic cost in terms of gas, tolls, parking, and more. In fact, according to NOAA, if the amount of trash on Orange County beaches was cut in half, the savings of residents could add up to $67 million during the summer. Even cutting the amount of trash by 25% would mean a large amount of savings, to the tune of $32 million.
“This study shows that beachgoers are worried about marine debris and will seek out cleaner beaches for recreation at a cost,” said Nancy Wallace, Marine Debris Program director. “Reducing or eliminating marine debris from our beaches is critical, because littered shorelines are costing people more than we anticipated. We can use these kinds of data to prioritize beaches for debris prevention and removal activities.”
As the report pointed out, this isn’t just a problem that California is dealing with; the economic loss associated with beach pollution is a national issue. “Given the enormous popularity of beach recreation throughout the United States, the magnitude of recreational losses associated with marine debris has the potential to be substantial,” wrote NOAA in a statement.
To cut those losses, we not only need to put more beach clean up efforts in place, but of course deal with the problem of polluted beaches before they get to that point. That means taking steps to prevent pollution in general, and in particular, work hard to get rid of single-use plastics.
Organizations like Surfrider and the Rise Above Plastics campaign are making the link between plastic and pollution very clear, and highlighting why we need to work hard to not only refuse single-use plastic items like bags and silverware, but also petition to ban them, so that there are simply less of them to end up in the ocean and on our beaches.
Ending beach pollution means eliminating products that pollute in the first place.
Photo Credit: epSos.de