Single-use masks and gloves mandated in response to the coronavirus pandemic were a significant source of beach pollution, according to the Surfrider Foundation’s Beach Cleanup annual report issued Thursday.

More than 2,270 single-use masks and gloves were removed from beaches and waterways from June to December during the San Clemente-based foundation’s Beach Cleanup program.

The discarded masks and gloves contributed to the nearly 90% of all items removed from beaches across the U.S. being plastic.

“Plastic pollution is a global crisis,” said Jennifer Hart, the foundation’s plastic pollution coordinator.

The pandemic forced the foundation to modify its Beach Cleanup program, switching from large group cleanups to solo cleanups. The foundation also opened its Beach Cleanup Database to the public so everyone could participate in logging their cleanup data.

Surfrider hosted 927 modified beach cleanups in 2020, increased coverage by nearly 55% and removed more than 80,000 pounds of trash from the nation’s beaches and waterways, according to the report.

“Beach cleanups have always been an instrumental tool for our network to analyze the most common types of items that pollute our beaches so we can work to help pass laws that reduce these items at the source,” said Rachael Coccia, the Surfrider Foundation’s plastic pollution manager.

The report is posted at ee5-files.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publications/Surfrider-Beach-Cleanup-Report-2020.pdf.

The Surfrider Foundation bills itself as a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.

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