Working toward a Butt Free Bay this Coastal Cleanup Day

You Decide: Which City Will We Make #ButtFree Next?

You decide: Which city will we make #ButtFree next?

Imagine an event where on a single day each year, people around the world spend 4 hours picking up trash along their local creek or beach, helping to illuminate the impact trash is having on water quality and wildlife worldwide.

Good news: That event is happening this Saturday and it has reached a milestone. International Coastal Cleanup Day is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and we’re tackling the single most abundant type of trash in our waterways: cigarette butts.

Last week, Save The Bay released our Cigarette Butt Litter Hot Spots map, showing 16 Bay Area cities with some of the worst cigarette butt pollution problems in our region. The data for this map came from Coastal Cleanup Day 2013. Volunteers at clean-up sites around the Bay  recorded the types of trash they found. This information helps us to understand what kinds of trash are most prevalent in our creeks and on our shorelines. Cigarette butts have been the #1 item collected on Coastal Cleanup Day for the last 20 years.

To help stem the flow of cigarette butts into the Bay, we’re asking Bay Area cities to adopt and enforce outdoor smoking restrictions. What’s interesting about the locations on our map is that some have already adopted strong restrictions, while others have not. The American Lung Association grades cities each year on the strength of their rules for smoking in outdoor spaces, including dining areas, parks, bus stops, and public events. What we’re learning is that a smoking ordinance alone is not sufficient to prevent tobacco litter. Cities must also educate the community about the ordinance and work proactively to ensure compliance in order for outdoor smoking restrictions to reduce litter.

The question we’re posing to you is: Where should we focus our efforts next? We’ve supported the City of El Cerrito in adopting their smoking ordinance, which includes strong outdoor smoking rules and is likely to be finalized next month. We’ve helped to kick off public education on Berkeley’s smoking ban with bus stop ads throughout downtown. Which city should Save The Bay work with next to achieve a Butt Free Bay? Click here to vote:

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Guest Blog: Bay Blend from CAN CAN Cleanse

Bay Blend

Make this Bay Blend juice and toast to a healthier Bay.

CAN CAN Cleanse is a nutritional liquid cleanse program that is designed to give the body a break from the stress and toxins of the on-the-go lifestyle. The beverages are made from whole, organic fruits and vegetables, herbal teas, raw nuts, fresh herbs and spices. CAN CAN believes in a holistic approach of nourishing the body with plant-based ingredients to let the digestive system rest and relax. The seasonal practice is very much a mental exercise in willpower, self-control and time of reflection on current eating habits. The purpose behind cleansing is to help people jump-start goals – be it to curb cravings, break bad habits, discover mental clarity, and awaken energy or to ignite weight loss. CAN CAN Cleanse is all about boosting self-esteem and reminding people what it feels like to feel good!  

Founded in San Francisco by Teresa Piro in late 2010, CAN CAN Cleanse is committed to glass mason jar packaging. Discouraged by the amount of waste created by plastic,throw-away bottles and the effects plastic bottles have on the Bay (and our planet), we encourage our clients to keep the glass jars for home use after their cleanse to be used as drinking glasses, DIY crafts, storage containers,gifts for friends, etc. We have also started a recycling program and donate used CAN CAN jars to local children’s schools and art programs for use in the classrooms.   

CAN CAN Cleanse joined Save the Bay earlier this year in an effort to further our involvement to keep the Bay beautiful! We created this special Bay Blend recipe in honor of San Francisco Bay. Enjoy!

Bay Blend Recipe
makes approx 2 cups


  1. 2 lemons, peeled
  2. 3 small cucumbers, peeled
  3. 1 medium fennel, fronds removed
  4. pinch of fine gray sea salt


Using a juicer, begin by juicing lemons. Then, juice cucumbers and fennel. Add the pinch of sea salts, stir well and enjoy!

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Acting Locally to Make a State Bag Ban Possible

Bag Monsters

We have come a long way in the fight against plastic bags.

Only a few years ago the idea of stemming the flow of plastic trash into the Bay seemed like an overwhelming problem. One million plastic bags were entering the Bay every year. While we recognized that plastic trash was affecting all of California’s waterways and ocean coast, we knew we had to tackle the problem in our own region, because that’s where we knew we could make a difference.

I’m proud to report that California’s legislature has passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags through Senate Bill 270, which is awaiting Governor Brown’s signature. And the reason this is possible is because we laid the groundwork locally.

We began by advocating for trash to be classified as pollution, and regulated like other toxics in stormwater. We won new permit limits requiring the elimination of trash from Bay stormwater by 2022. Then we worked directly with cities to reduce throwaway plastics at the source, through local bans on plastic bags and Styrofoam food ware. Bay Area cities responded, and four years later more than 75% of the Bay Area population lives where a ban on single-use plastic bags is in force.

But many communities across the state are far behind. A state bag ban can close the gaps and make a bigger dent in plastic trash that plagues our neighborhoods, waterways, and beaches.

California has tried for many years to pass a bag ban law. What’s different this time? Mainstream business organizations like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the California Grocers Association are lining up behind the state ban. Businesses and consumers find the bill palatable because the Bay Area has demonstrated the value of a consistent regional approach to regulating bags. By working locally, we’ve secured collaboration and coordination between cities and counties, so supermarket chains and other businesses face the same laws region-wide. We’ve proven that bans work to keep plastic out of our waterways, prompt consumers to switch to reusable bags, and don’t harm businesses.

It’s remarkable that an idea once considered controversial has become mainstream so quickly, after just four years of advocacy by Save The Bay and our supporters. How did we get here?

  • In 2009 twenty-six waterways that flow to the Bay as well as the lower and central portions of the Bay itself were found to be so filled with trash that they violated federal Clean Water Act standards. Photographic evidence of shoreline trash submitted by Save The Bay supporters was convincing to the State Water Board and U.S. Environmental Protection agency.
  • Save The Bay convinced Bay Area water quality officials in 2010 to adopt the first-ever trash regulations under the Clean Water Act, requiring cities to reduce trash flowing into the Bay under the Municipal Regional Stormwater Permit. Cities must demonstrate that they have reduced trash flowing into the Bay by 40 percent by September 2014, and eliminate all trash flowing to the Bay by 2022.
  • When we suggested cities could advance compliance by banning plastic bags, some people thought we were crazy and predicted shoppers would revolt. The first cities to pursue bans were sued by front groups for the plastic industry. But shoppers adjusted.  Retailers adjusted. The lawsuits failed.
  • Local bag bans work: One year after San Jose’s ban went into effect plastic bag trash had decreased by 69% in the city’s creeks and 89% in its storm drains. The average number of single-use bags per customer dropped from 3 bags to 0.3 bags per visit.

On September 1, California state legislators passed SB 270, but it still needs a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. It feels good knowing that Bay Area residents and their representatives have embraced the value of conservation over convenience for the sake of the Bay. The Bay Area should be proud of its leadership on reducing plastic trash – now it’s time for all of California to catch up.

Ask Governor Brown today to sign SB 270 into law and make plastic bags history in California.

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Cargill tries to gut the Clean Water Act to build homes in the Bay

Cargill Salt and its developer partner DMB revealed last month that they attempted to secure a key exemption from the federal Clean Water Act that would have weakened the nation’s top water pollution law for the benefit of their reckless development scheme in Redwood City. And they almost succeeded: the companies convinced a key official at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarter to unilaterally reinterpret the law. Thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intervened to block Cargill’s effort, at least temporarily.

The revelation shows Cargill is still desperate to advance its massive housing development on Bay salt ponds, and even is willing to gut the nation’s most important water protection law without any public process or Congressional debate. Through vigorous behind-the-scenes lobbying of a few federal government lawyers, Cargill almost upended laws that have reduced water pollution and protected public health for more than 40 years.

In August, Cargill released documents to a Redwood City newspaper showing that general counsel of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to instruct the agency’s San Francisco District to decline federal oversight of the Redwood City salt ponds where Cargill wants to build thousands of homes.

The Daily News reported that the Corps’ Chief Counsel, Earl H. Stockdale, signed a memo in January exempting the Saltworks site from Clean Water Act coverage because the ponds contain “liquid” that has “been subject to several years of industrial salt making processes.” His memo repeats nearly verbatim arguments DMB made two years ago that the concentrated bay water in the ponds is actually not water.  Stockdale’s memo also suggests that most of the ponds are also not covered by the Rivers and Harbors Act, which discourages construction of structures on “navigable water”.

If adopted as policy, Stockdale’s memo would overturn decades of Corps precedents in San Francisco Bay, including the Corps’ 2010 conclusion that development on the Saltworks site does require federal permission because those ponds do contain water protected by the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act. Stockdale’s memo was issued without any public process or review, and without consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has primary authority over implementation of the Clean Water Act.

When the EPA discovered Stockdale’s memo, it intervened to halt any hasty decision about the Saltworks property. EPA officials realized that Stockdale’s reinterpretation could not only block protection of Bay salt ponds, but also jeopardize regulation of polluted runoff from mines and other sites across the nation. EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld insisted that EPA have final say on the Clean Waters Act “in light of the significance of the issues raised by the Corps’ proposed approach and the ecological importance of the San Francisco Bay waters at issue.”

The EPA’s intervention prompted senior Army Corps officials to suspend any action on the Cargill site. They have launched an internal review of Stockdale’s memo and how its sweeping change to federal water law could be snuck through the regulatory process without their knowledge, public review, EPA consultation, or action by Congress.

Even if Cargill wins the ruling it seeks from the Army Corps, it will still face hurdles from other state and federal agencies to secure permits for developing on the Bay shoreline.  And no development project on the Redwood City salt ponds can advance without initial approval from the city itself.  Cargill’s formal project proposal was withdrawn from the city in May 2012, after three years of strenuous opposition from local residents and Bay Area elected officials prevented the completion of even a draft environmental analysis.

Residents objected to the city council considering the project because it was at odds with Redwood City’s General Plan and zoning, state and federal laws. Local opposition to the project prompted hundreds of residents to establish a new citizens group, Redwood City Neighbors United. These residents continue to object that Cargill’s plan would destroy restorable wetlands, add to traffic gridlock, overtax drinking water supplies, encroach upon industries at the Port of Redwood City, and put thousands of new residents at risk of floods from rising seas.

For years, Cargill and DMB have acted as if they were above the law, but they have made no progress convincing local, state and federal agencies their Saltworks project is legal. Now they have arrogantly disclosed their own effort to gut the laws that protect San Francisco Bay and the nation’s water so they can boost their profits.

These companies have been tireless and shameless, but Save The Bay and our allies remain vigilant to Cargill’s sneak attacks, and we have mobilized more than 25,000 Bay Area residents and more than 150 elected officials to tell Cargill to abandon its plan to build in the Bay.

Please help us spread the word! If you haven’t already signed our petition telling Cargill to abandon its plan, do so today, and spread the word to your friends here today.

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An open letter to Governor Brown

Save The Bay has been working for years to rid San Francisco Bay of plastic bag pollution. This month, we are closer than ever to achieving a statewide bag ban in California. SB 270 has passed the state legislature and is awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. We recently sent this letter calling on the Governor to sign the bill into law. You can do your part by sending a message to Governor Brown today

RE: Support for SB 270 – Solid waste: single-use carryout bags

Dear Governor Brown,

On behalf of Save The Bay’s 60,000 members and supporters throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, we urge you to sign SB 270 (Padilla, De León, and Lara) into law. After eight years of state and local advocacy, this bill has the support of business organizations, industry associations, unions, and environmental organizations across the state. SB 270 will establish a baseline for eliminating plastic bags in jurisdictions that have failed to enact their own local restrictions, moving our state closer to plastic-free shorelines and waterways.  By enacting SB 270, the state would also help 76 Bay Area municipalities to eliminate trash in their stormwater systems by 2022, as required by regional agency permits.

Bay Area communities have supported banning plastic bags since San Francisco became the first U.S. city to do so in 2007. Environmental organizations, solid waste professionals, elected officials, and chambers of commerce have united to craft strong local bag ordinances that reduce pollution of waterways while providing consistency for businesses and residents.  As a result, 76% of Bay Area residents now live in a jurisdiction that has banned plastic bags. SB 270 builds upon these models and the Bay Area’s leadership and will dramatically reduce plastic bag pollution statewide.

Every argument from opponents of plastic bag bans has been disproven by the actual experience of cities and counties that have enacted them. Despite industry advocacy for bag recycling, not one Bay Area jurisdiction has found it to be economically feasible. Fears that bag bans will hurt businesses have proven unfounded, as business owners continue to support regionally consistent policies. Claims that plastic bag pollution is not a problem are disproven every year on Coastal Cleanup Day, as volunteers remove thousands of plastic bags from our creeks and shorelines. Marine debris starts on land, and California has the obligation and opportunity to decrease its contribution of plastic trash to our oceans.

California is being hailed as a leader for taking action against single-use plastic bags and the degradation they cause in California’s waterways. Please implement this groundbreaking policy by signing SB 270 into law.


David Lewis
Executive Director

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