Save The Bay Names Five Bay Trash Hot Spots Where Cities Are Leading Effort To Reduce Plastic Pollution

September 13, 2011

Save The Bay, the oldest and largest regional organization working to protect and restore San Francisco Bay, announced today its 6th Annual Bay Trash Hot Spots, five creeks and shoreline areas blighted by toxic levels of plastic trash. Single-use plastic bags, fast food containers, cups, straws, and other plastic trash are dangerous pollutants that harm wildlife, spoil water quality, threaten public health, and smother sensitive wetland habitat. An interactive map showcasing the hot spots can be found at: www.saveSFbay.org/baytrash. Members of the public can immediately help clean up numerous Bay and Ocean hot spots by volunteering on the California Coastal Commission’s Coastal Cleanup Day this Saturday, September 17.

Save The Bay’s 2011 Bay Trash Host Spots are Mission Creek in San Francisco, Guadalupe River in San Jose, Damon Slough in Oakland, Baxter Creek in Richmond and Pulgas Creek in San Carlos. City officials and Save The Bay staff selected these sites because they are imperiled by trash, and are all located in cities that are leading the regional effort to reduce trash by considering or pursuing bans on plastic bags and/or polystyrene. These hot spots are also close to heavily-used areas and major transportation corridors, habitat for endangered species, and Clean Water Act violations.

"Plastic bags and polystyrene food packaging continue to be some of the most visible and pervasive trash choking our wetlands, clogging waterways and degrading our recreational areas," says Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis. "The good news is that now more Bay Area cities are taking the initiative to stop trash at its source by banning these wasteful and unnecessary disposable items."   

Save The Bay is the Leading Regional Advocate for Reducing Trash Pollution
Years of sustained advocacy by Save The Bay and our members produced an approach that will significantly reduce Bay trash, most of which is plastic debris. In 2009, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) approved a permit that requires Bay Area cities to identify and clean up trash hot spots along their creeks and shorelines. Collectively, Bay Area cities identified 225 hot spots – areas that have toxic levels of trash. Cities and counties under this permit are now required to completely eliminate trash in their waterways by 2022, and can do so in part by implementing bans on disposable products.

In 2010, Save The Bay featured these 225 hot spots that Bay Area cities and counties had identified as directed by the permit. This year’s hot spots highlight specific cities that are complying with the permit by considering or implementing best management practices, including plastic bag and polystyrene reduction ordinances. Save The Bay urges other cities to follow suit, and is working with the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA) to ensure that cities are meeting the requirements of the permit and to offer support as they consider different trash reduction policies.  BASMAA is a consortium of nine Bay Area municipal storm water programs, more than 96 agencies, 84 cities and seven counties.

“Bay Area cities are proud to report progress toward their compliance with the Municipal Regional Permit by identifying and cleaning up trash hot spots in their jurisdictions,” says BASMAA Executive Director Geoff Brosseau. “Save The Bay’s efforts to assist cities in implementing bans on plastic bags and foam food packaging are moving them closer to meeting the permit requirements and reducing the amount of trash that ends up in our waterways. But personal responsibility still matters. While most people don't litter intentionally, it is important to prevent accidental trash. Simple steps such as properly closing lids on trash and recycling bins, picking up litter, using a garbage bag in cars, and covering loads when hauling by truck can help keep our creeks clean.”

Plastic Trash Problem in the Bay and Ocean
Bay trash is accumulating in massive amounts – choking wetlands, poisoning and entangling Bay animals, harming water quality and threatening public health and our quality of life. The United Nations Environment Program says plastic bags are the number one form of litter in the globe's oceans and should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. In the Bay Area in 2010, Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers removed over 172 tons of waste from the Bay and its waterways, including over 48,000 plastic bags – in just one day. In fact, Save The Bay estimates that more than one million plastic bags pollute the Bay each year; and expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) is the second most abundant form of beach debris in California.

More than 500 species of wildlife depend on San Francisco Bay including 23 endangered species such as the California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Bay wetlands provide a protected nursery for newborn fish, birds and other marine animals such as seals and leopard sharks. Trash in the Bay also has global ramifications. The North Pacific Ocean hosts a swirling gyre of garbage estimated at twice the size of Texas, where plastic particles are more abundant than plankton. Countless seabirds, marine mammals, and fish die annually from eating or getting tangled in marine debris.

Residents to Vote for Hot Spot that Save The Bay will Adopt
Save The Bay is asking residents to vote for one of the five Bay Trash Hot Spots that the nonprofit will “adopt” with a series of volunteer cleanups throughout 2012, as the organization continues its direct work with individuals and cities to eliminate trash from the Bay, Residents can learn more, view photos and vote at www.saveSFbay.org/baytrash.

Community Volunteer Information for Coastal Cleanup Day:
Sign up on Save The Bay’s website: www.saveSFbay.org/volunteer or visit the Coastal Cleanup Day website for a cleanup event near you: http://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/ccd/ccd2.html

About Save The Bay
Save The Bay is the largest regional organization working to protect and restore San Francisco Bay. Formed in 1961, Save The Bay is celebrating 50 years as the Bay’s leading champion, protecting our natural treasure from pollution and inappropriate shoreline development; restoring habitat; and securing strong policies to re-establish 100,000 acres of wetlands that are essential for a healthy Bay. We engage more than 25,000 supporters, advocates and volunteers to protect the Bay, and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders by educating thousands of students annually. Save The Bay is proud to have achieved this impressive milestone and remains dedicated to making the Bay cleaner and healthier for people and wildlife.
www.saveSFbay.org

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SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION FOR PRESS

Save The Bay's "Adopt-a-Spot" Contest Locations:

  • Baxter Creek in Richmond flows from the Berkeley Hills to Stege Marsh and into San Francisco Bay has been designated as trash-impaired under the Clean Water Act – requiring trash flowing to the creek to be virtually eliminated. Six smaller creeks feed into Baxter Creek, providing it with many sources for trash pollution. While several portions of the creek have been restored, some areas remain ravaged by litter. Richmond has already banned polystyrene and has committed to banning plastic bags by actively encouraging a regional approach in collaboration with other cities in Contra Costa County.
  • Damon Slough receives trash year-round from the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Arena parking lots. In addition, several creeks flowing through Oakland’s highly urbanized watershed drain directly into Damon Slough. This waterway has been designated as trash-impaired under the federal Clean Water Act – requiring cities to virtually eliminate trash flowing to the slough. A polystyrene ban is currently in effect in Oakland. The city also passed a plastic bag ban in 2007, but abandoned the ordinance after being sued by the plastics industry for not completing an environmental impact report (EIR). Oakland is currently participating in a countywide effort to ban plastic bags.
  • Guadalupe River flows from the Santa Cruz Mountains through downtown San Jose. Despite frequent volunteer clean-ups throughout the year, the river is continually plagued by litter, dumping, homeless encampments and trash runoff from a dense urban area. San Jose, the largest Bay Area city and third largest city in California, passed the strongest single-use bag ordinance in the country in December 2010. Beginning January 1, 2012, the ordinance will ban plastic bags and place a charge on recycled-content paper bags at all retailers.
  • Mission Creek enters San Francisco Bay next to AT&T Park in San Francisco. In addition to litter from the ballpark, Mission Creek receives trash from adjacent homeless encampments and storm drains that flow from various parts of the city. San Francisco was the first city in the U.S. to adopt a ban on plastic bags at some grocery stores in April 2007. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi proposed amendments last year to strengthen the ordinance. 
  • Pulgas Creek in San Carlos flows directly into the Bair Island Ecological Reserve, former salt ponds that have been restored to wetlands by Save The Bay and others. Clean-up events are held on Pulgas Creek every Coastal Cleanup Day, but the creek continues to receive trash from upstream sources throughout the year. The San Carlos City Council is considering both a single-use plastic bag and polystyrene food ware ban.