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 Greece.

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 equator.

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 shorelines.

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 @anna.kauffman