Styrofoam is choking Coyote Creek

Styrofoam and other trash floating in Coyote Creek in San Jose.

On the morning of February 9th, I headed down to San Jose to participate in one of the city’s Clean Creeks, Healthy Communities cleanups on Coyote Creek, near Selma Olinder Park.  I knew the area would have trash and that it would be busy morning, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality of this day.

As we descended into the creek, it was clear that the area was a former homeless encampment.  We found shoes, clothing, blankets, utensils, and other gear necessary for survival next to a creek, but we also found a ton of Styrofoam – cups, plates, clamshells, meat trays, you name it.  It was on the banks, stuck in between branches, buried in the mud, and caught in the middle of the creek against tree branches that laid across the water.  As Styrofoam is exposed to the elements, it becomes brittle and breaks into tiny pieces, which I experienced as I tried to pluck cups and food containers out of the creek.  I definitely – frustratingly – sent many pieces downstream.

We volunteers spent hours in a 20 by 20 square foot area picking up Styrofoam and other trash, and while we left this small portion of Coyote Creek much cleaner than when we arrived that morning, there was still hours of work to be done.  A couple people explored a nearby stretch of Coyote Creek during the cleanup, and witnessed two swimming ducks who had to walk across a floating mass of trash in order to continue their trip downstream.  I saw the video and it broke my heart.

I didn’t need any convincing that banning Styrofoam in San Jose – and throughout the Bay Area – is the right thing to do for our waterways.  The San Jose City Council is voting next Tuesday on whether or not to draft an ordinance, which could be adopted by this summer.  Want to help drum up support?  Tomorrow (Friday), Save The Bay is participating in a press event with the city and other local organizations to advocate for a Styrofoam ban.  We’ll be at the Selma Olinder Park stormwater trash capture device at 10am, at the corner of Woodborough Place and Woodborough Court in San Jose.

This cleanup was a stark reminder that this isn’t just about passing bans; it’s about taking responsibility for the health of our beautiful and valuable natural resources.  Don’t we all live here because of them?

Are you a San Jose resident? Take action and tell the city council to ban Styrofoam: