A new study has found that 7 trillion pieces of plastic wash into the San Francisco Bay each year. Including microplastics (particles under 5mm), a million pieces for each person in the Bay Area. These get into the Bay through wastewater treatment centers.
Plastic has become ubiquitous in modern life. Plastics leech out of clothing fibers and wet wipes, causing pollution in the ocean. Any flushed plastics, like contacts or wipes, pass through filters and into the bay. Much of the plastic is microscopic, its too small to see.
The other significant cause of plastic in the ocean is plastic flowing through storm drains. Road, sewers, and sidewalks all carry plastic debris into drains where they lead into the ocean. Plastic debris found in storm drains include tire parts, food packaging and litter.
The study was led by the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Lead author Rebecca Sutton said of the plastic problem, “Plastic pollution is really pervasive. We use plastic in so many ways in our society. Our understanding of it and concern about it are rapidly evolving. But we have solutions we can implement to control this problem and keep our bay healthy.”
California has increasingly strong environmental legislation, including multiple plastic straw and plastic bans in cities. But plastic is still increasing and is found everywhere. Research on microplastics is just beginning, with the World Health Organization beginning in-depth research. Latest research has found microplastics in our food chain and that humans ingest up to a credit cards worth of plastic each week.
Environmental groups are urging the government to come up with solutions. Some solutions include installing filters on washing machines to protect plastic from getting into the water system. Cities have also added storm drain catchment and additional street sweeping, to prevent plastic from flowing downstream.
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