Talking Trash in San Jose

Over two dozen Bay Area creeks are so full of trash that they violate the Clean Water Act.
Over two dozen Bay Area creeks are so full of trash that they violate the Clean Water Act.

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.

Weekly Roundup | May 17, 2013

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay.

Los Angeles Times 5/15/13newspaper
Volunteers pull tons (and tons) of trash from California waterways
The Ocean Conservancy has run the numbers, and over the course of a single day in September 2012, more than 500,000 volunteers from across the globe collected 10 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways. The top three most common items collected were cigarettes and cigarette filters (2.1 million), food wrappers (1.1 million), and plastic beverage bottles (1 million).
Read more>>

San Jose Mercury News 5/13/13
River otters are making a comeback in the Bay Area
On a cool winter evening just before sunset, birdwatcher Helen Daley spotted something entirely unexpected slithering in the waters of Los Gatos Creek.
“I turned the binoculars on it,” Daley said. “It was moving, and the water was shaped like a ‘V.’ It dived under, and its tail slipped up. It was a tapered, long tail. It wasn’t like that of a rat or beaver.”
Daley, a nurse who lives in the Cambrian Park area of San Jose, rushed home and confirmed online that the animal she saw was a North American river otter.
Read more>>

Grist 5/13/13
Green vs. green: The slimy battle for Drakes Bay
It’s springtime at the Point Reyes National Seashore, about an hour outside of San Francisco, and the cold wind whips off the sea and through the tall grass along the cliffs. Cows wander and graze along the fingers of land that reach out into the estuary’s tiny bays, an area altogether encompassing just over three square miles.
Beyond the estuary, at the outer edges of the seashore, seals sun themselves on the beaches, packed in tightly and squirming along the shoreline.
From March through June, the estuary is quiet. The seashore boasts more than 28,000 acres of agricultural land, most of it for beef and dairy production — but it’s pupping season for the seals, and the National Park Service has instated its annual ban on the motorboats that usually zip around the estuary, planting and harvesting millions of oysters for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company.
Read more>>

Marin Independent Journal 5/10/13
Environmentalists, officials turn out in Tiburon to cheer SF Bay wetlands designation
With choppy Richardson Bay as a backdrop, dozens of people gathered at the Lyford House in Tiburon on a breezy Friday afternoon to celebrate the naming of San Francisco Bay as an international Ramsar “wetland of importance.”
The designation adds the bay to a list of protected areas under an international treaty among 163 countries signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 to limit damaging development along ecologically important waterways.
“It took more than four years to make all this happen,” said Rowan Gould, deputy director of operations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Wetlands are not only internationally important, they are important in the communities we live in.”
Read more>>

Daily Kos 5/12/13
Costa Introduces Legislation To Strip ESA Protections For Delta Fish
Congressman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) has introduced legislation to exempt the Central Valley  and State Water projects from Delta pumping restrictions required under the Endangered Species Act to protect Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt.
Costa claimed the  “More Water and Security for Californians Act” would “significantly increase” the water supply in the Valley and growers who receive water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP) would see greater “water security.”
Read more>>

Grist 5/14/13
Determined kids in small California town push for plastic bag ban
You may have read about some hardworking, smart, and civic-minded students who, back in 2011 and 2012, fought to keep their local river park open. Fought and won, actually. Well, students from that same school, Grass Valley Charter in Grass Valley, Calif., are now on to another battle — with the help of students from other area schools, they want to push Nevada County to put a ban on single-use plastic bags and start charging for paper bags. These kids are unstoppable.
Read more>>