Much has been written about the great Plastic Vortex covering perhaps half a million square miles in the Pacific Ocean, and others not quite as large in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Manufactured items from bags to toys to shoes that are not recycled eventually find their way to sea. Birds and aquatic animals ingest them, often fatally; Dutch scientists found that some seagulls averaged 30 pieces of plastic in their stomachs. As the plastic degrades it can release toxins, or sometimes just break into smaller, more easily ingested particles.
Several California agencies are trying to tackle the plastics-and-floatables problem on a local scale. The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors last week voted to prevent district funds from being used to buy service ware made of expanded polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam. Citing Caltrans data that shows 15% of storm drain litter to consist of foam—packing materials, food service ware, and other items—the board said it hoped to encourage other districts and municipalities to follow its lead.
Also in California, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the State Water Resources Control Board, and US EPA have joined to stop pre-production plastic from entering the water. This takes the problem back a step, focusing not on discarded goods but on the small pellets—called nurdles—that are used in manufacture of plastic items. Improper handling and disposal of the pellets at factories and during transfer from rail cars allows them to enter storm drains. A cleanup effort, the first of many, has been ordered for Oyster Bay near San Leandro, California, which is home to several endangered species.
Other than bans on plastic bags, which are becoming more common throughout the country, does your area have any specific rules relating to the handling or disposal of plastics, Styrofoam, and similar debris?
New Forester University Webinar:
How can we design a better and greener roadway? Join David Hein, P.Eng., V.P. of transportation at Applied Research Associates, on November 17th for “Greening the Road” exploring roadway design, specification, and construction elements used to develop long-lasting roadways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce and recycle road-building resources, and promote environmental stewardship.