What do you call it when 300 municipal and agency staff, nonprofits, and elected and appointed officials get together to talk trash? Save The Bay and others who organized the event called it the 2013 Bay Area Trash Summit, and participants called it a huge success.
On November 15th, the City of San Jose hosted the summit to foster regional collaboration on finding solutions to the serious trash problem in the Bay Area. Presentations ranged from lessons learned on plastic bag and Styrofoam bans, to strategies for preventing illegal dumping, to methodologies for measuring trash reduction in our waterways.
I was particularly excited to moderate a plenary session on tobacco litter – it was a great way to help launch our new campaign to fight this toxic, plastic trash that is littered in staggering amounts throughout the Bay Area. The session featured Dr. Tom Novotny, President/CEO of the Cigarette Pollution Prevention Project; the City of San Rafael, and students from the St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland. Dr. Novotny discussed various strategies to prevent tobacco litter, including outdoor smoking restrictions, litter fees, and banning filters (they’re made of plastic and don’t protect smokers’ health). Cory Bytof, San Rafael’s Volunteer and Sustainability Program Coordinator, discussed the city’s outdoor smoking ordinance and their collaboration with the community to curb cigarette litter – their Cigarette Eater Meter has raised awareness and money for a local organization. Last, but certainly not least, 6th and 7th graders from St. Paul’s discussed their efforts to convince the City of Oakland to install receptacles at cigarette litter hot spots along Lake Merritt’s shoreline. With each presentation, I was even more motivated to work with Bay Area cities to address this serious and preventable problem and keep our Bay butt free.
Bay Area cities are faced with the challenged of eliminating trash in their waterways by 2022, with an interim requirement to reduce trash by 40% by July of next year. The good news is that many innovative solutions to the Bay’s trash problem were presented that day, and I look forward to seeing them implemented throughout the region.