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What's with all the wads? The Surfrider San Francisco Chapter can tell you!

After collecting thousands of plastic shotgun wads along San
Francisco’s Aquatic Park and Ocean, China and Baker beaches, the SF chapter noticed,
thanks to social media, that other seaside communities were doing similar
collecting around the world. This inspired a new program and thus the “Shotgun
Wad Watcher” was conceived and a global initiative went live.

A year has passed since the launch and while many of us quickly
studied up on the anatomy of shotgun cartridges, the San Francisco Chapter got
busy collecting data.

Through word-of-mouth efforts, beachgoers have posted – and
continue to post – photos of the plastic shotgun wads (also known as “shot
cups”) they pick up on their local beaches. Volunteers have mapped shotgun wads
along the entire coastline of Great Britain and on nearly every shoreline in
the United States, including the Great Lakes. Wads have been found on beaches in
the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, France, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Finland, and

The Shotgun Wad Watcher is a geography lesson in itself – you
can track wads posted from the island nations of Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Japan, New
Zealand and Tasmania (Australia). To date, tens of thousands of wads have been
collected across the Northern Hemisphere with thousands more accounted for in
parts of New Zealand, on the north coast of Tasmania and, recently, near
Melbourne. As of this writing there haven’t been any posts from South America
or African nations – we may need your help spreading the word south of the

While we can appreciate the need for some sterile plastics in
the food and medical industries, there is no need for the use of something so
harmful to wildlife and our environment when marine- and bio-degradable shotgun
wad alternatives exist. With performance and conservation in mind, companies
such as GreenOps Ammo and Rio Ammo are coming to market in the U.S. with
alternative wadding material that will break down over time in the environment they
land once they leave a shotgun barrel – whether it be in saltwater, fresh water
or on land. This is welcome news to those of us picking up wads on our

To be fair, challenges and barriers exist for established
ammunitions manufacturers: additional costs in adopting new technology, establishing
a demand for eco-wads and the fact that the plastic wads have historically
polluted so much of the globe. But opportunity awaits for manufacturers choosing
to emerge as leaders in the industry by adopting these better alternatives.

In the meantime, Surfrider Foundation members and volunteers
around the world continue to collect data. Please pick up wads and post them
via Surfrider’s very own Shotgun
Wad Watcher
. Help us by spreading the word through your Chapter’s beach
cleanup efforts, post to social media using #wadwatch, and share with your
community’s environmental organizations doing their part to keep our waves and
beaches free of plastic pollution.

Want to learn more about the program or integrate the
Shotgun Wad Watcher to your Chapter’s website? Contact and watch the
25-minute presentation
San Francisco Chapter’s Anna Kauffman gave in December at the Contra Costa
Watershed Symposium – available on YouTube, or follow her on Instagram