Trash Flows to the Bay and Beyond

Trash on Guadalupe River Bed
The next rain storm would carry this trash from the
Guadalupe River bed straight to the Bay and beyond.

We’ve seen on our creek cleanups that single-use plastic bags and other trash ends up in our waterways and eventually flow out to the Bay.  We’ve even learned that they float all the way out into the open ocean and collect to form the Pacific Garbage Patch.  But what’s going on under the ocean’s surface?

A study from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) shows that surprisingly large amounts of discarded trash not only clutter our waterways and beaches, but accumulate in the deep sea as well.  Ocean researchers looked up to 300 miles offshore and 13,000 feet deep and said “we’ve seen trash everywhere we looked.”   Plastic shopping bags and aluminum beverage cans were the most common items found in the study.

Frustratingly, the majority of the debris was glass, metal, paper, or plastic and could have been recycled.  But once trash reaches the deep sea, degradation is slow due to lack of oxygen and sunlight, and cleanup is expensive and impractical.  The only solution is to stop trash before it enters our waterways.

Save The Bay continues to advocate for local plastic bag and Styrofoam bans throughout the Bay Area and to organize volunteers to clean up creeks that drain into the Bay.  Close to 75% of Bay Area residents live in cities or counties that have passed a single-use bag ban and almost 30% of all Bay Area jurisdictions have adopted a Styrofoam ban.  Though this is a huge accomplishment, some of our Bay Area neighbors are lagging behind – Contra Costa County, the cities of Milpitas and Santa Clara, and the North Bay wine country have yet to take action to prevent plastic bag or Styrofoam pollution from entering our waterways, our Bay, and our ocean.

Take action to stop trash where it starts – sign our petition to encourage Bay Area cities to crack down on Bay trash.