Save The Bay Creates Ambitious "Cities Keep It Clean" Agenda to Reduce Pollution - One of the Biggest Threats to the Bay

April 15, 2008

Save The Bay, the oldest and largest membership organization working exclusively to protect, restore, and celebrate San Francisco Bay, launched an ambitious new Bay pollution prevention agenda today. Cities Keep It Clean empowers Bay Area cities to help the region’s seven million residents reduce pollution – one of the biggest threats to the Bay.

Save The Bay‘s Cities Keep It Clean agenda presents Bay Area cities with a road map to a cleaner San Francisco Bay. The program will empower cities to adopt “best bold practices” to prevent Bay pollution generated by residents, one of the most serious issues threatening the health of the Bay and the 500 species of wildlife that depend on it. Through Cities Keep It Clean, Save The Bay will help more cities implement cutting-edge, yet common sense, steps to reduce toxic Bay pollutants including toxics from e-waste, pharmaceuticals, mercury, plastic bags, Styrofoam and motor oil.

“Bay pollution threatens our quality of life and economy. Cities Keep It Clean is the first formal, easy-to-replicate agenda created for sharing innovative programs to reduce Bay pollution across Bay Area cities. We look forward to working with local governments to implement this agenda, which will in turn reduce toxic Bay pollution and protect the health of people and wildlife,” says David Lewis, Executive Director of Save The Bay.

Pollution from Residents: One of Biggest Threats to San Francisco Bay
Up to 70 percent of the toxics in San Francisco Bay come from polluted runoff – that means oil from leaky cars, trash and pet waste that wash down storm drains and creeks and flow untreated to the Bay. This runoff, plus toxic chemicals like pharmaceuticals, mercury, pesticides and paint that are not properly disposed of, are polluting the Bay, poisoning wildlife and threatening public health. Bay Area residents leak, spill or dump 3 million gallons of oil into the Bay each year; a study found an average of three pieces of trash along every foot of Bay Area streams leading to the Bay; and preliminary studies have already found acetaminophen in San Francisco Bay. With the Bay Area’s population expected to grow to 8.1million by 2020, there is high potential for pollution impacts to worsen.

Cities Can Help Residents Overcome Challenges to Bay Friendly Actions
The Cities Keep It Clean agenda builds on Save The Bay’s Keep It Clean! program, which educates residents about simple lifestyle changes that can reduce Bay pollution. However, being “Bay-friendly” – responsibly disposing of toxic household items or avoiding items most likely to litter the Bay, like plastic bags and Styrofoam – can be challenging because of the lack of convenient disposal centers and alternatives. For example, in the Bay Area there are relatively few sites for responsible disposal of toxic household items such as e-waste, old medicine and mercury-containing CFL light bulbs. Further, while cities like San Francisco and Oakland have banned plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, in most other local cities, retail outlets and restaurants still distribute these items.

“We have learned a lot in San Carlos through our successful curbside pickup of cell phones and batteries pilot program with SBWMA and Allied Waste. The program is now in use in 12 city and county areas in San Mateo County. It started as a small pilot and grew into a program that is making a regional impact on reducing landfill tons and pollution. We commend Save The Bay for sharing local best practices and helping other cities model programs like this one to improve our environment,” says Brian Moura, San Carlos Assistant City Manager.

Cities Keep It Clean Outlines Pollution Prevention Best Practices
In addition, to San Carlos’ curbside pickup of e-waste, Save The Bay has identified numerous pioneering best practices already implemented in a few Bay Area cities which are dramatically reducing specified Bay pollutants. Programs include:

  • Plastic bag ban – San Francisco
  • Require biodegradable food containers (“Styrofoam ban”) – Emeryville
  • Fast food litter fee – Oakland
  • Pharmaceutical disposal sites – San Mateo County
  • Curbside pickup of e-waste or household toxics – San Carlos

GOAL: Cities Implement Best Practices by 2011
Save The Bay will work with Cities Keep It Clean partners to adopt one to two of the best practices each year, based on their capacity and priorities. Save The Bay will measure success of the Cities Keep It Clean program by cities’ efforts and implementation of the programs, with a goal for each participant to adopt of a majority of the programs by 2011. Save The Bay will assist cities who wish to adopt programs that reduce Bay pollutants by developing case studies, model ordinances, cost estimates, key contacts and other information for each of these practices.

"Environmental damage ignores borders and lines of jurisdiction," said Sup. Adrienne J. Tissier, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. "Contaminants travel with the tides and the winds, so we are all connected. And so we must all work together or we will simply continue to suffer together regionally and globally."

Save The Bay’s Pollution Reduction Goals
Save The Bay has targeted specific pollutants for focused reduction efforts over several years, including mercury from thermometers, batteries and CFLs; pharmaceuticals that are flushed into the wastewater stream and slip through treatment plants; bacteria from sewage leaks and pet waste; trash and plastic debris; and motor oil and heavy metals from cars and trucks that stormwater washes off of roads. By collecting more than 2000 mercury thermometers from Bay Area residents, Save The Bay has prevented potential mercury contamination of 10 billion gallons of water.

Save The Bay’s Shocking Ads Showcase How Much We All Pollute the Bay
The launch of Cities Keep It Clean coincides with the appearance of Save The Bay’s region-wide pollution prevention advertising campaign appearing on BART and VTA buses in April and May. The campaign features Bay pollution such as oil, plastic bags and e-waste in the shape of a skull and crossbones – the universal symbol for danger – with shocking, hard-hitting statistics, such as:

  • Our cars leak more oil into the Bay each year than the Cosco Busan oil spill.
  • 125 tons of waste was pulled from the Bay in one day.
  • 15,000 plastic bags were removed from the Bay in one day.

The ads aim to attract attention, educate the community about the shocking amount of pollution in the Bay coming from our homes, cars and neighborhoods and motivate people to make simple lifestyle changes to protect the Bay. The advertising campaign is generously supported by The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Oracle, Kaiser Permanente, The Rose Foundation and The California Coastal Commission's Whale Tail License Plate Grants Program. TEAK Motion Visuals in San Francisco is the creative firm. To see the ads visit:

“Through our advertising campaign and our Cities Keep It Clean agenda we can effectively educate residents about pollution and empower cities in make it easier for the community to be ‘Bay friendly.’ By working together, we can significantly reduce Bay pollution and thus protect the Bay for the health and quality of life for ourselves and future generations,” says Lewis.

About Save The Bay
Save The Bay is the oldest and largest organization working exclusively to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay. As the Bay’s leading champion since 1961, Save The Bay is committed to making the Bay cleaner and healthier for people and wildlife. Save The Bay wages and wins effective advocacy campaigns to increase public access to the Bay, establish 100,000 acres of healthy wetlands around the Bay, and protect the Bay from today’s greatest threats: pollution and urban sprawl. Save The Bay educates nearly 10,000 students and adults on the Bay each year and engages volunteers to improve vital wetlands and subtidal habitats.