Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Environmental Action Guide 2020

PSA: Microplastic Pollution in San Francisco Bay 2020

Policy analysis by Erica McCoy, Joey Tran, Stephanie Lew.

Overview

Microplastics are small particles of plastic that are typically smaller than 5mm and are often consumed by sea creatures, which leads to harmful outcomes. A 2015 study done by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) and the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (RMP) has shown that the San Francisco Bay has been polluted by microplastics. They often enter the Bay waters from wastewater treatment plants around the Bay Area as these micropollutants are so small. Consumerism is also a huge contributor to microplastic pollution with single use plastic objects such as water bottles and plastic bags. A common form of microplastics is microfibers which comes from clothing, and these microfibers also make up a majority of the particles found in the San Francisco Bay. The SFEI and RMP continue to monitor the San Francisco Bay’s plastic pollution to gather information in order to inform those in management levels of the city and state.

Reading Room

Want to learn more? Here are books from our collection related to this topic.

Plastic Ocean

The researcher who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch--and remains one of today's key advocates for plastic pollution awareness--inspires a fundamental rethinking of the modern Plastic Age.  In 1997, environmentalist Charles Moore discovered the world's largest collection of floating trash--the Great Pacific Garbage Patch ("GPGP")--while sailing from Hawaii to California. Moore was shocked by the level of pollution that he saw. And in the last 20 years, it's only gotten worse--a 2018 study has found that the vast dump of plastic waste swirling in the Pacific Ocean is now bigger than France, Germany, and Spain combined--far larger than previously feared. In Plastic Ocean, Moore recounts his ominous findings and unveils the secret life of plastics. From milk jugs and abandoned fishing gear to polymer molecules small enough to penetrate human skin and be unknowingly inhaled, plastic is now suspected of contributing to a host of ailments, including infertility, autism, thyroid dysfunction, and certain cancers. An urgent call to action, Plastic Ocean's sobering revalations have been embraced by activists, concerned parents, and anyone alarmed by the deadly impact and implications of this man-made environmental catastrophe.

Plastic Soup

Plastics have transformed every aspect of our lives. Yet the very properties that make them attractive--they are cheap to make, light, and durable--spell disaster when trash makes its way into the environment. Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution is a beautifully-illustrated survey of the plastics clogging our seas, their impacts on wildlife and people around the world, and inspirational initiatives designed to tackle the problem.  In Plastic Soup, Michiel Roscam Abbing of the Plastic Soup Foundation reveals the scope of the issue: plastic trash now lurks on every corner of the planet. With striking photography and graphics, Plastic Soup brings this challenge to brilliant life for readers. Yet it also sends a message of hope; although the scale of the problem is massive, so is the dedication of activists working to check it. Plastic Soup highlights a diverse array of projects to curb plastic waste and raise awareness, from plastic-free grocery stores to innovative laws and art installations.

Microplastics in Water and Wastewater

The topic of microplastics in freshwater systems and in wastewater has scarcely been studied and requires more attention. Microplastics in Water and Wastewater aims to bring these initial findings to the attention of a broader audience and especially to operators and managers of freshwater and wastewater systems. It will also be helpful to people already aware of the marine debris problem to understand the sources of microplastics in the oceans, from freshwater systems and wastewater treatment plants.

Natural History of San Francisco Bay

This complete primer on San Francisco Bay is a multifaceted exploration of an extraordinary, and remarkably resilient, body of water. Bustling with oil tankers, laced with pollutants, and crowded with forty-six cities, the bay is still home to healthy eelgrass beds, young Dungeness crabs and sharks, and millions of waterbirds. Written in an entertaining style for a wide audience, Natural History of San Francisco Bay delves into an array of topics including fish and wildlife, ocean and climate cycles, endangered and invasive species, and the path from industrialization to environmental restoration. More than sixty scientists, activists, and resource managers share their views and describe their work--tracing mercury through the aquatic ecosystem, finding ways to convert salt ponds back to tidal wetlands, anticipating the repercussions of climate change, and more. Fully illustrated and packed with stories, quotes, and facts, the guide also tells how San Francisco Bay sparked an environmental movement that now reaches across the country.

Marine Anthropogenic Litter

This book describes how man-made litter, primarily plastic, has spread into the remotest parts of the oceans and covers all aspects of this pollution problem from the impacts on wildlife and human health to socio-economic and political issues. Marine litter is a prime threat to marine wildlife, habitats and food webs worldwide. The book illustrates how advanced technologies from deep-sea research, microbiology and mathematic modelling as well as classic beach litter counts by volunteers contributed to the broad awareness of marine litter as a problem of global significance. The authors summarise more than five decades of marine litter research, which receives growing attention after the recent discovery of great oceanic garbage patches and the ubiquity of microscopic plastic particles in marine organisms and habitats.

Freshwater Microplastics

This volume focuses on microscopic plastic debris, also referred to as microplastics, which have been detected in aquatic environments around the globe and have accordingly raised serious concerns. The book explores whether microplastics represent emerging contaminants in freshwater systems, an area that remains underrepresented to date. Given the complexity of the issue, the book covers the current state-of-research on microplastics in rivers and lakes, including analytical aspects, environmental concentrations and sources, modelling approaches, interactions with biota, and ecological implications. To provide a broader perspective, the book also discusses lessons learned from nanomaterials and the implications of plastic debris for regulation, politics, economy, and society. In a research field that is rapidly evolving, it offers a solid overview for environmental chemists, engineers, and toxicologists, as well as water managers and policy-makers.