03 • 26 • 2019

Surfrider Participates in a Microplastic Pollution Study of San Francisco Bay

To better understand the amount of microplastic and microfiber pollution and potential solutions, 5 Gyres, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and a coalition of other organizations put together the San Francisco Bay Microplastics Project. It was desiged to provide critical data on microplastics in the Bay Area and generate scientifically supported, regional recommendations for solutions to plastic pollution. San Francisco Bay provides the perfect laboratory to understand the impacts of microplastic pollution as it is a dense urban area with a bay geography that traps pollutants that reach the water. This is the first large-scale and comprehensive effort designed to standardize methods, collect and interpret data, provide tools, and drive policy change in a nearshore region. Check out this short video that explains the project in greater detail.
This study is looking at microplastic distribution in the surface water, in bay sediment, and different fish species that inhabit that waters.  It also looking towards the potential sources of microplastics to the bay.  By analyzing input sources to the bay including wastewater from treatment facilities, storm drains, and riparian zones, the study will be able to determine the biggest sources of microplastic pollution in the San Francisco bay.
Prelimary results from the study show that microplastics and microfibers have been found in all samples analyzed so far. To address questions of whether counted microparticles are actually plastic, spectroscopy, a  was used to confirm that indeed, a number of these tiny particles were plastic. While plastic microfibers were present in most samples, so were fragments from tires, polyurethane fragments, polystyrene foam fragments, and many other types of microplastic. As the results continue to be analyzed, the working group around the project is looking towards solutions to microplastic pollution in the bay.  This will hopefully provide a blueprint on how to address microplastic pollution on a regional and global scale.
The project will result in recommendations to address microplastic pollution in San Francisco Bay that will be released to the public in Fall 2019.  The Surfrider Foundation is working with the coalition on the draft recommendations and is a member of the Microplastics Policy Advisory Committee. The recommendations may include policies that aim to reduce the proliferation of single-use plastics, support green stormwater infrastructure to capture microplastics and microfibers, and develop new education and outreach strategies.
Thanks to our partners at 5 Gyres, this project will provide some critical answers on how microplastics and microfibers end up in our waterways and what strategies may be most effective in addressing the problem.
You can take action on Microplastics and Microfibers today:
1. Follow our suggestions on personal steps to reduce microfiber pollution
2. Support a Surfrider local or statewide campaign that is addressing plastic pollution
3. Become a Surfrider member to support our work to stop plastic pollution at the source