Oct 04, 2019

More Than 7 Trillion Pieces of Plastic Washing Into San Francisco’s Bay

A three-year study finds that microplastic is pouring through San Francisco’s sewage treatment plants and storm water drains. 

Plastic waste in water

A three-year study conducted by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) discovered that trillions of pieces of plastic are flowing into San Francisco’s Bay each year.

These pieces, also categorized as microplastic, are pushed by rain into storm drains and carried through rivers and creeks into the bay. According to the study, “the large contribution of black, rubbery fragments was a dominant feature in urban stormwater samples. Meanwhile, wastewater samples indicated influence from multiple sources.” 

The researchers estimate that rain is washing 300 times more plastic into the water than what enters through sewers and sewage treatment plants.

Though the presence of plastic in water is often associated with its impact on animals like turtles and fish, humans encounter this pollutant too. Microplastic is present in sources of drinking water, but the health effects of its consumption are not determined. Half the plastic that exists on Earth was manufactured in the last thirteen years

California proposed bills targeting the manufacturers of plastic products as a means to reduce plastic waste in water. Two bills, Senate Bill 54 and legislation Assembly Bill 1080, aimed to eliminate 75% of single-use containers by 2030. California lawmakers adjourned early without acting on the bills, according to the Los Angeles Times. A third bill, AB 792, would require that plastic beverage containers contain 10% recycled plastic by 2021, 25% recycled plastic by 2025, and 50% recycled plastic by 2030.

“We oppose the bills primarily because of the massive bureaucracy that they would set on top of our broken recycling system,” said John Hewitt, senior director of state affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association to Mercury News, “there’s not a shared responsibility.” The bills are opposed by industry groups who argue the measures are costly and feel there needs to be more specifics about how the bills would be administered. 

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