Clean Roads Start with YOU: Simple Ways to Reduce Pollution

Photo Credit : Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal

By: Vicki Dehnert

The debris you see on the shoulders of our Bay Area roads is more than just unsightly. It’s also a threat to our environment and natural habitat.  I co-founded Marin Clean Highways to help address this issue in Marin County. I’m also excited to partner with Save The Bay to highlight the failure of Caltrans—the agency in charge of our state highways—to keep Bay Area roads clean and prevent trash from polluting the Bay.

There are actions your community can take to improve areas that are not under Caltrans’ control.  In Marin County, we created a consortium, “Clean Marin” comprised of many other local organizations concerned with the environment (my organization, Marin Clean Highways, is just one of several).  By banding together, we now have a more powerful voice when we speak with our elected officials about our environmental concerns. We were so successful in growing our base of organizations that Marin County Department of Public Works now spearheads our efforts — a perfect example of private-public collaboration.

Our Successes are a blueprint for your successes.

Here are four strategies to rid your community of trash and save the Bay.

  • Push to get highway shoulder areas adopted through Caltrans’ “Adopt A Highway” program.

Keep a close eye on the adoptee areas—we found a few were underperforming with minimal cleanups and asked Caltrans to intervene. We are happy to report that things have improved.

  • Sound off about illegal unsecured loads being carried in the back of pickup trucks.

Debris spills out of trucks daily, and although state law requires loads to be secured, the law is often not enforced by local CHP due to workforce shortages. Our community is looking at ways to raise funds needed for hiring off-duty CHP patrol officers to specifically enforce these laws. Also, through our efforts, our local waste management company allows us to distribute tarps and educational materials to unsecured trucks entering their facility.

  • Rally local businesses and residents to raise funds that will help remove weeds and trash from highways and frontage roads.

In Marin County, many of the frontage roads to Highway 101 are full of trash and weeds. Marin Clean Highways raised funds from businesses and residents to contract with the San Rafael Downtown Streets Team to pick up frontage road litter on a weekly basis. What a difference this has made!

  • Attend city and county meetings to let your elected officials know how important clean highways are to your community.

In recent years, city and county budgets were pared down, and litter cleanup is not a priority. Share your sentiments and concerns with elected officials that serve your community.

We have a long way to go to get the clean roads and environment we want. But when we work together, across the nine Bay Area counties, our local success, however small, can become something much greater and help make the Bay Area better.

As Co-Founder of Marin Clean Highways, Vicky Dehnert is on a mission to reduce trash pollution across the Bay Area. She is a former educator who switched gears to high tech. Vicky has called Marin home for the last eight years.

San Francisco Bay: Home to leopard sharks and toxic trash

hot spot or not
Vote on the trashiest waterway in the Bay. We’ll adopt the winner for cleanup.

San Francisco Bay is a thriving natural treasure encircled by vibrant wetlands and home to many critters like seals, pelicans and leopard sharks.  Unfortunately, it is also home to trash – and a lot of it.  In fact, some parts of the Bay are so trashy that they violate the Federal Clean Water Act.

Luckily, Save The Bay is giving the community a chance to do something about this trash problem….What’s more is that you can do this from your computer and it only takes 5 minutes!  Visit the Bay Trash Hot Spots website and vote “Hot Spot” or “Not.”  Save The Bay will harness volunteers to adopt and clean up the top-voted spot!

I know that you, like me, do not purposely litter.  So, you are probably wondering where all this trash is coming from.  I helped clean up the San Jose shoreline on Coastal Cleanup Day a few weekends ago and was disgusted by the amount of tiny pieces of Styrofoam, plastic bags, cigarette butts and more we cleared from the environment.

Sure, some of this trash was purposely littered (like the cigarette butts), but a lot of it likely blew out of overflowing trash cans and into storm drains and creeks where it flowed to the Bay.  Plastic trash is especially dangerous to animals that mistake it for food, eat it and then are poisoned or starve.

In addition to hosting cleanups, Save The Bay is focused on stopping trash at its source.  That’s why we are working with cities all over the Bay to pass strong bans on plastic bags and Styrofoam.   We are proud that currently 50% of Bay Area residents live in communities that have banned single-use plastic bags, and 30 cities or counties have banned Styrofoam food packaging. And five years after passing the first bag ban in the country, San Francisco’s expanded plastic bag ban goes into effect October 1st.

All of us working together have the power to reduce Bay pollution to keep our water clean and protect our quality of life.  Please remember to bring your reusable bags when shopping.  And simply take just 5 minutes right now to vote for the hottest hot spot.  And then join Save The Bay as a volunteer to help clean it up. The critters in the Bay will thank you!


Weekly Roundup September 21, 2012

weekly roundupFive years after passing the first bag ban in the country, San Francisco’s expanded plastic bag ban goes into effect October 1st. After Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers removed 320 tons of trash from California’s waterways, the need for strong pollution prevention policies is clear. San Rafael joined the growing list of cities with polystyrene bans. Save The Bay’s volunteers were out in full force in Oakland and San Jose, where 145 volunteers removed 2,700 lbs of trash. Kron 4 featured the polluted Hayward shoreline, one of Save The Bay’s 5 Bay Trash Hot Spots. KQED hosted a Google Plus Hangout on plastic pollution in the ocean with David Lewis and other environmental leaders. In climate change news, a call to address tidal flooding in the South Bay. And a new site helps local Bay Area residents keep pharmaceuticals out of the Bay.

San Francisco Chronicle 9/21/2012
New SF checkout bag law takes effect Oct. 1
Starting Oct. 1, BYOB in San Francisco will take on a whole new meaning. Then, shoppers will have to bring their own bags when buying booze – and just about anything else – or incur a charge.
10 ways to kick the bag habit >>

Marin Independent Journal 9/17/2012
San Rafael bans polystyrene takeout food containers
San Rafael’s City Council on Monday adopted a ban on the use of polystyrene foam takeout containers by local restaurants, cafes and other establishments, to become effective in one year. The ordinance passed by the council prohibits the use of the containers, more commonly known as Styrofoam, and will affect about 250 local businesses. San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips and councilmembers Barbara Heller and Andrew McCullough all voted in favor of the ordinance; the remaining two councilmembers were absent.

San Jose Mercury News 9/16/2012
320 tons of debris removed from state’s waterways during California Coastal Cleanup
From foggy Ocean Beach in San Francisco to the creeks of Silicon Valley to the baking hot beaches of sunny Los Angeles, tens of thousands of Californians turned out Saturday to pick up mountains of trash at 850 locations across the state.
With about 70 percent of counties reporting by late Saturday, the California Coastal Commission reported that 57,442 volunteers took part in the 28th annual California Coastal Cleanup.

CBS 5 9/15/2012
1000s Of Bay Area Volunteers Come Out On California Coastal Cleanup Day
Thousands of Bay Area volunteers headed to local shorelines, beaches and inland waterways as part of the 28th annual California Coastal Cleanup on Saturday.This year at sites throughout all Bay Area counties volunteers picked up trash, recyclables and other debris between 9 a.m. and noon for the annual community service day.

Oakland North 9/17/2012
Volunteers flock to Oakland shorelines for Coastal Cleanup Day
Perry Parsons, an 8th grader at St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Oakland, discovered a spring, a shoe and a part of a black plastic wall socket that “looks like a face” in the Damon Slough waterway in East Oakland while volunteering on Saturday at the city’s Creek to Bay community service day.

KRON 4 9/12/2012
Save The Bay – People Behaving Badly
Save the Bay Released it’s most polluted waterways in the San Francisco Bay Stanley Roberts takes a closer look at one of those beaches.
Watch >>

KQED Science 9/19/2012
Plastic Pollution in the Ocean
KQED SCIENCE hosted a Hangout on Air round table discussion about the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Much of the 300 million tons of plastic is produced globally each year is carelessly discarded and goes from landfills or streets to streams, eventually floating out to sea. The floating garbage is then caught up in the currents, coalescing into swirling marine vortexes called “gyres”.
Watch >>

Milpitas Post 9/19/2012
WATER WISE: South Bay tidal flooding risk must be addressed
With the threat of sea levels rising due to climate change and the reality of an aging levee system, the risk of tidal flooding in the South Bay must be addressed. For decades shoreline levees, maintained as part of salt production in the South Bay, have also provided a level of flood protection. But in 2003 thousands of acres of these former salt ponds were acquired by the state and federal government in order to allow for habitat restoration.

Oakland Tribune 9/19/2012
Campaign aims to keep drugs out of Bay Area waters
Bay Area residents have had options for getting rid of old pills piling up in their medicine cabinets. But the “No Drugs Down the Drain” campaign launched Monday wants to make sure consumers take their leftover pharmaceuticals to local law enforcement agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other designated drop-off sites.

Weekly Roundup September 14, 2012

weekly roundupThis week, we announced our 6th annual list of Bay Trash Hot Spots, creeks and shorelines that are so polluted they are in violation of the Clean Water Act. Check out the coverage below. As tens of thousands of volunteers prepare for tomorrow’s Coastal Cleanup Day, they may find tsunami debris and tiny plastic pellets present an extra challenge to clean up. Beyond plastic pollution, a strong case against a peripheral tunnel around the Delta. Finally, take a look at this reminder of the Bay that we are saving — a great place for birdwatching along the Hayward Regional Shoreline.

San Francisco Chronicle 9/12/2012
Coyote Creek tops list of dirty waterways
Forget the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We have our own version right here in the Bay Area.San Jose’s Coyote Creek is so clogged with candy wrappers, diapers, beer bottles, cigarette butts and other debris that, in some spots, one can practically walk across the waterway without getting wet. The creek, one of the two largest waterways in the South Bay, is likely the dirtiest waterway in the Bay Area and has earned the dubious distinction of making Save the Bay’s annual list of “trash hot spots,” which the group is to release Wednesday.

East Bay Express 9/12/2012
Three East Bay “Trash Hot Spots” Violate Clean Water Act
Forty years after Congress passed the Clean Water Act — a landmark law sparked in part by the work of Bay Area environmentalists — five local waterways identified by Oakland nonprofit Save the Bay are so cluttered with trash that they’re in violation of federal law.

KQED 9/13/2012
The 5 Trashiest Places Around the Bay
Save the Bay released its sixth annual list of Bay Trash Hot Spots on Wednesday. The places on the list are such major contributors to the flow of junk into San Francisco Bay that they actually violate the Clean Water Act.

Bay Citizen 9/12/2012
Nonprofit names the five trashiest Bay waterways
According to Oakland nonprofit Save the Bay, five local sites have such high levels of trash that they are in violation of the Clean Water Act.The Clean Water Act, enacted in 1972, lays out regulations for pollution in waterways and the quality of surface water nationwide. This marks the sixth year the organization has identified “Bay Trash Hot Spots” using data reported by the cities, as required by The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Oakland North 9/12/2012
Oakland’s Damon Slough named one of area’s most littered
Damon Slough, a chunk of preserved parkland in Oakland that stretches for more than eight acres along the Martin Luther King Jr. shoreline, was named one of the Bay Area’s top five most littered waterways in 2012, environmental groups said today.

NBC Bay Area 9/12/2012
‘Save the Bay’ Reveals Bay Area Trash Spots
Five Bay Area waterways top the list of “trash hot spots.” Arturo Santiago reports.
Watch >>

View more videos at:

CBS5 9/12/2012
Some Bay Area Waterways ‘Hot Spots’ For Trash
Some Bay Area waterways, including Coyote Creek in San Jose and the Hayward shoreline, have made Save the Bay’s list of trash “hot spots.” Don Ford reports.
Watch >>

Oakland Tribune 9/10/2012
Will California coast clean-up volunteers find debris from tsunami?
More than a year after a tsunami struck Japan’s east coast, California beachcombers are preparing for a wave of debris expected to hit the U.S. Pacific Coast in coming months.”It’s going to be a growing issue over the coming year as more debris starts to arrive in California,” says Eben Schwartz, California Coastal Commission outreach manager. “It will be a good opportunity to educate Californians about the ongoing marine debris problem.”

Bay Nature 9/12/2012
Tiny plastics pellets a big problem in coastal cleanup
On September 15, tens of thousands of volunteers will participate in California Coastal Cleanup Day, donning work gloves to gather up the tonnage of manmade debris along California’s coastal regions and inland waterways.

Huffington Post 9/13/2012
San Francisco Plastic Bag Ban Gets Go-Ahead From Judge
Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson on Tuesday upheld a San Francisco ordinance that would ban most retail locations in the city from distributing plastic bags and begin charging customers a dime for each paper bag (or comparatively more expensive compostable plastic bag) they use.

Sonoma News 9/10/2012
The case against the peripheral tunnel
We have warned in this space repeatedly about the dangers of rushing an ill-conceived peripheral tunnel around the Delta, but no one has made the case against the tunnel more clearly than Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sport Fishing Protection Alliance, who wrote the following column in the Sept. 5 issue of Capitol Weekly.

San Francisco Chronicle 9/12/2012
Cogswell Marsh Loop: great bird watching
Just minutes from the frenzy of Hayward’s Southland Mall, you’ll find serene Cogswell Marsh, a 250-acre restored tidal saltwater marsh that is part of the Hayward Regional Shoreline. The levees along the shoreline were originally built for salt harvesting, but they were breached in the 1980s, and tidal flow returned to the land.

Hot Spot or Not? Bay Trash Hot Spots 2012

Hot Spot or Not
Cast your vote for the trashiest waterway around the Bay.

Remember that website Hot or Not? You know, where people upload photos of themselves and users vote whether they are “HOT” or “NOT”. That site was pretty trashy, but we’ve got something even trashier…

Bay Trash Hot Spots 2012: Hot Spot or Not?

Instead of people, you get to vote on the trashiest waterways around the Bay. Here’s the deal:

Each year, Save The Bay releases a list of Bay Trash Hot Spots highlighting the most polluted waterways around the Bay. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, yet toxic trash continues to plague our waterways, flow into the Bay, and out into the ocean. Save The Bay’s five Trash Hot Spots are each located in one of the top ten cities that contribute the most trash to the Bay from storm water systems, and are all in violation of the Clean Water Act.

This year’s Hot Spots are:

• Coyote Creek in San Jose
• Damon Slough in Oakland
• The Hayward shoreline
• Baxter Creek in Richmond
• San Tomas Aquino Creek in Santa Clara

Our fearless Policy Associate Allison Chan took a Tour de Trash  to scope out these sites and snapped photos to share with you. We’ve uploaded the photos into our own ‘Hot Spot or Not’ contest. Now’s the time to vote!

We’ll tally the votes and adopt the winning Hot Spot for cleanups in 2013. Be sure to vote and share with your friends. You may even find a spot that is actually hot…

Cast your vote today!