Trash has plagued the Bay since landfills ringed its shoreline in the 1950’s and 60’s. Times have changed, but according to the agency tasked with protecting water quality in the Bay, not enough progress has been made.
At the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s meeting a couple weeks ago, Board members discussed the effectiveness of a 5-year-old policy that requires cities to drastically reduce the flow of pollutants into their storm drains, which connect directly to creeks and the Bay. Trash was the main topic, and the discussion focused on how to improve the policy to ensure that trash in the Bay is eliminated by 2022. Save The Bay has been tracking progress since the policy went into effect in 2010, and unfortunately we’re not convinced that much has changed.
Stronger policies needed
Part of the problem is the lack of clear requirements for determining how much trash ends up in local creeks or along the Bay shoreline. How will cities, the Water Board, or the public know if our efforts to reduce trash are working if no one is collecting data in and around the water? Another concern is the lack of consequences for cities that don’t demonstrate major trash reductions. Some cities are working very hard to reduce trash through activities like street sweeping, maintenance crews in commercial areas, promptly collecting illegally dumped materials, and organizing community trash clean-ups. Inconsistent effort among cities must be discouraged to truly reduce trash throughout our region.
Luckily, the Water Board voiced these same concerns at the meeting and asked their staff to come back with a better, stronger policy. Board Member Jim McGrath stated that the region is nowhere near a 40% reduction in trash (which was supposed to have been achieved in 2014) and the Board Chair, Terry Young, made it clear that future failures to meet mandatory reductions will not be tolerated—the next one is a 70% reduction by 2017.
While trash remains a serious threat to the Bay, the leadership demonstrated by the Water Board gives us hope. For our part, Save The Bay will continue to advocate for a strong policy while also working to support cities in their efforts. At the meeting, many city representatives spoke of the difficulty in securing resources to implement solutions—that’s why YOUR voice is so important. Tell your elected officials to do everything they can to keep trash out of our neighborhoods and storm drains. Talk to your local businesses about keeping their sidewalks clean. Take the Zero Trash pledge to stay up-to-date on future opportunities to advocate for a trash-free Bay.