Worldwide monitoring shows that marine plastic pollution is increasing dramatically almost everywhere. It comes from us - Eighty percent (80%) of marine plastic pollution comes from the land. Wind and storms carry plastic litter, along with trash from landfills and open dumpsters to inland and coastal waterways, and then onward to the sea.
A majority of the trash in coastal and ocean waters is plastic. Most of
that it is single-use disposables and packaging. All of our
"convenience" comes at a heavy cost to our oceans.
Learn more about the problem of marine plastic pollution and the solutions. Clean Water Fund's and Clean Water Action's programs are focused initially on problems and solutions in California, but national and global solutions are needed to solve this problem.
In urban areas, including Los Angeles, Orange County, and the San Francisco Bay Area, state and local governments are focusing on stopping the trash from getting into stormwater and inland waterways. The goal is for "zero discharge" of trash over several years. Billions in taxpayer dollars are being spent annually, as local governments increase street cleaning and litter collection and have begun installing expensive trash control devices in the storm drain system.
California's taxpayers will face ever-increasing bills for controlling garbage unless we can stop this problem at its source. That means reducing the use and disposal of throw-away items and single-use packaging.
Wasteful plastic disposables bring other environmental and health costs at every step in their lifecycle, from raw materials extraction to manufacture, transport and disposal. The impacts range from oil spills and deforestation, to energy and water use, pesticide use, soil depletion, water and air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. In addition, there is increasing recognition that plastic packaging harms public health.
At Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Action, we wanted to learn more about the sources of trash polluting the San Francisco Bay and its creeks and tributaries. Since most of the trash starts out as litter, we wanted to find out where all the trash on streets is coming from. The cities of Oakland, Richmond, San Jose and South San Francisco were also interested in leaning more about the sources of trash. With help from the cities, from October 2010 through April 2011, we collected data on street litter in these four cities. We were joined by community groups and schools, like the Watershed Project, students from Oakland High School, Lowell High School, and San Jose State University, and some neighborhood groups.
The litter audits only collected samples from a few locations in each city. This was enough for a snapshot of the sources and types of trash. It's not a comprehensive study, but it does shed some light on where all this trash is coming from and how we can reduce it at the source.
You can Help Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Action Take Out the Trash in California by learning more:
The long term solution is clear. We need to make and consume less "stuff."
We are consuming too much stuff. We have to ask ourselves, is the "convenience" of disposable coffee cups, single-serve food containers and plastic shopping bags really worth the cost to our oceans, our clean water, and our health? One of our favorite videos, the Story of Stuff, shows that thoughtless over-consumption is exceeding the planet's capacity to sustain life.
How do we prevent the pollution and waste of water, energy, and resources associated with single-use products and packaging? There are alternatives to this "throw away" lifestyle.
Starting in California, Clean Water Fund's and Clean Water Action's Taking out the Trash program is educating consumers and changing policies to reduce product packaging and waste. These are the critical first steps that must be taken on the path toward a more sustainable future. We must act quickly, because the materials we are throwing away today are the natural resources we need for a sustainable future!