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Image via 5 Gyres

Image via 5 Gyres

This article was written by Katie Strong, Data Processing Manager and Trash Characterization Coordinator for the Tracking California’s Trash Project

Monitoring plastic pollution in our waterways is vital to figuring out the impact of plastics in our environment. Our first field work for Tracking California’s Trash Project was in March and we hit the creek again in this April.

This go-around we were lucky enough to catch the very end of the first flush of the season, which allowed us to collect a lot more trash. We sampled the same Bay Area creek near San Francisco on April 7, during a wet weather event (a 24-hour period when there is at least 0.5 inches of rain). That morning’s heavy rains created an increased amount of trash and debris.

The depth of the creek during this sampling event increased from our last dry weather sampling in March, and the creek flow rate increased. This depth and speed of the creek allowed us to catch 108 percent more trash than our March outing.

Our research thus far is important to help us understand monitoring techniques, and now we are very prepared to catch upcoming storms.

So what did we discover in the trash from the creek?

  • We found mylar (non-recyclable) film food wrappers
  • EPS disposable food & beverage ware
  • Other plastic items, including plastic hygiene products & micro-plastics
  • Cigarette butts

Our increased April trash sample is a reminder to be mindful about discarding our waste properly. Storm drains, gutters, and other outlets drain rainwater directly into our streams, rivers and bays, mobilizing and pushing trash to the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean. Stay conscious, our friends!

(This article originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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