By Sarah Haselton
The Watershed Project organizes and engages in clean-ups and trash assessments around Contra Costa County. Collecting data frequently from the same sites allows for us to grasp general trends and hopefully identify the effects of waste management legislation.
We have conducted trash assessments at many sites in the area but have consistent data from four sites in particular; Wildcat Creek at Verde Elementary (WC01), San Pablo Creek at El Sobrante Library (SANP01), San Pablo Creek at Parr Blvd (SANP02) and Creek at Pacific (BAYPC). Our most robust data from these sites is from 2014 to 2018 and demonstrates a trend of increasing trash removed both by weight and count over time. In 2014 the total weight of trash removed from these sites combined was 400 pounds and increased to 1,895 pounds in 2018. In terms of total pieces of trash removed it was 1,891 in 2014 and 3,383 in 2018 for the same four sites.
In November 2016 California passed a plastic bag ban. We were curious if the effects of the plastic bag legislation would be represented in our findings. San Pablo Creek at Parr Blvd had the greatest number of plastic bags removed, with at least 100 bags removed every year. There was a distinct decrease in plastic bags removed after the plastic bag ban. Unfortunately, the other our sites have not shown a clear impact.
Trash assessments provide a clearer idea of what and much is being discarded and the means of disposal. This information is helpful as it can assist and improve waste reduction methods and waste management. Waste assessments help to establish a baseline of what is ending up in our watersheds and monitor the effectiveness of bans such as the plastic bag ban. We encourage you to get involved with local trash assessments and clean-ups. Please stay tuned for up-coming TWP events on our website. We look forward to seeing you at our next clean-up!