First Rains Flush Plastic Pollution to the Ocean

Benjamin Kay is a school teacher from Santa Monica: this week he released a video documenting the disgusting waste – mostly plastic pollution – that flowed into Santa Monica Bay from the “second flush” at the start of California’s rainy season. Benjamin’s goal is to raise the awareness of his students and engage them in protecting the community’s threatened beaches and waters. 

Most of California is a very dry state, so when it finally starts to rain the pollution built up over the dry months – whether plastic bags, bottles, or toxins — washes from inland streets to storm drains and rivers, then out to the ocean.   The first rain of the season in early November was fairly light, so the massive flow of waste didn’t make its way to the ocean until this week’s major downpour.  Now, imagine this scene replaying across the state and all around the world, and you’ll understand why globally, oceans are overwhelmed with plastic waste.  

Plastic Waste is a Growing Problem

Trash that pollutes our streets, beaches and waterways costs local governments and California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.  An NRDC survey of local communities’ self-reported data showed that litter cost local governments in California $428 million annually (see map of affected California communities here). And more recently, NRDC and other top ocean and waste experts contributed to a comprehensive policy briefprepared at UCLA, documenting the devastating effects of plastic marine litter and detailing how plastic forms a large portion of our waste stream and typically does not biodegrade in the marine environment. 

You Can Be Part of the Solution

We all can take action to stop plastic pollution from harming our seas.  As an individual, the best thing to do is to avoid single-use plastic packaging whenever possible. For the little ones, our friends at All the Way to the Ocean wrote a wonderful children’s book about the importance of properly recycling or disposing of waste so that it doesn’t pollute the environment.

While commonsense measures to cut down on the amount of trash we create can help to prevent plastic pollution, these days, most everything we buy comes wrapped in plastic packaging.  That is why we also need to call on companies to use less packaging and ensure that packaging is fully recyclable.  We also need producers of plastic packaging to pitch in, supporting important actions such as the expansion of recycling infrastructure and storm water management. This, in turn, will incentivize producers to move beyond single-use disposable plastic and develop innovative new refillable and reusable solutions.  

You, your business, organization, or government can get involved in promoting solutions to protect and maintain our waterways, beaches and oceans free of plastic pollution by joining here: www.stopplasticpollution.org

Stay tuned for more information!

Plastic Pollution, LA, by Team Marine.JPG

Plastic pollution in Los Angeles, by Benjamin Kay and Team Marine