Getting to Zero Trash

Trash fills Coyote Creek in San Jose at William Street Park, Photo by Vivian Reed

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.

Getting to Zero: Pledges for a Better Bay

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Over the past weeks, we’ve invited you to join our Zero Trash, Zero Excuse campaign via email and social media. As a result, a total of 844 people have taken the Zero Trash Pledge. At last Saturday’s Uncorked festival, many festival goers stopped by our booth to show us their pledge. Here are some of the ways that Save The Bay members and staff have pledged to keep trash from flowing into San Francisco Bay:

“I pledge to accept no excuses in stopping trash from flowing into the Bay.”

“I pledge to strongly encourage my family to quit their plastic water bottle addiction.”

“I take a pledge to say ‘no straw please’ when I order a drink.”

“I pledge to join Save The Bay in demanding my city reach Zero Trash.”

“I pledge to wash + reuse Ziploc bags”

“I pledge to call on my city to enforce existing laws that keep trash out of our waterways.”

“I pledge to carry bamboo utensils so I never have to use plastic utensils again!”

“I pledge to urge my city to be more proactive in passing strong policies to keep trash out of the Bay.”

Will you take the Zero Trash Pledge? Visit to take action.

It’s Time to Talk Trash

Zero Trash | Zero Excuse logoSan Francisco Bay has a serious trash problem. You might not see it from the Bay Bridge or Twin Peaks, but there is a constant flow of trash polluting the body of water that defines our region. If you’ve ever participated in a shoreline cleanup, this won’t be news to you.

But do you know where it comes from?

The largest source of Bay pollution comes from runoff from our city streets. There’s all kinds of gross stuff in that runoff, and a huge portion of it is trash. That’s right — trash that you see in the street enters storm drains and flows through city storm water systems into our creeks and out into San Francisco Bay. How does that happen?

Take our 5-question Stormwater Quiz to learn more. 

Over the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing a lot more from us about trash flowing into San Francisco Bay and what we can do about it. It’s time to stop talking trash and start cleaning it up. Zero Trash, Zero Excuse. We hope you’ll join us.