About the Event

It is possible to view the symposium via live stream. The videos for the Symposium's sections are posted below. 

For more information, please email [email protected].

Agenda

OPENING

Welcome and Introduction
Warner Chabot, Executive Director, San Francisco Estuary Institute

INTRODUCTORY KEYNOTE

Big Picture from the Ocean Protection Council
Mark Gold, Deputy Resources Secretary for Coast and Oceans and Executive Director, Ocean Protection Council

Potential impacts of microplastics on marine, freshwater, and terrestrial organisms:
         What we know and what we need to know to better assess risk

GUEST EXPERT • Susanne Brander, Oregon State University at Corvallis

SESSION 1 • New Findings from the San Francisco Bay Microplastics Project

Science Panel: What’s the Big Picture on these Tiny Contaminants?

  • Study Objectives - Meg Sedlak, SFEI
  • Microplastics in Bay and Ocean Waters - Carolynn Box, 5 Gyres
  • Microplastics in Sediment and Fish - Diana Lin, SFEI
  • Microplastics in Wastewater and Stormwater - Alicia Gilbreath, SFEI

DISCUSSION • Moderated by Rebecca Sutton - SFEI, with Technical Expert Xia Zhu - University of Toronto

BREAK

From Land to Sea: Models to Trace the Movement of Microplastics in the Bay and Ocean
Don Yee & Rusty Holleman, University of California at Davis

The Future of Microplastic Science
Chelsea Rochman, University of Toronto

Next Steps for Science and Monitoring in the San Francisco Bay and California
Rebecca Sutton, SFEI, and Shelly Moore, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP)

LUNCH

Focus on Solutions

Introduction
Airrion Copeland, Executive Director, 5 Gyres

AFTERNOON KEYNOTE

The Big Picture from CalEPA
Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary for Environmental Protection, CalEPA

SESSION 2 • Bay Area Solutions to Reduce Microplastics Pollution

Youth Stakeholders and the Importance of our Influence and Diversity
Cambria Bartlett and Damian Montesinos, Heirs to our Oceans

Data Driven Solutions for Microplastics Pollution in San Francisco Bay
Carolynn Box and Anna Cummins, 5 Gyres

Policy Panel: Local Actions to Drive Change

  • Miriam Gordon, Upstream
  • Jen Jackson, Department of the Environment, San Francisco
  • Martin Bourque, Berkeley Ecology Center
  • Chris Sommers, EOA
  • Sherry Lippiatt, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

DISCUSSION • Moderated by Jen Jackson

BREAK

SESSION 3 • Rising to the Challenge, Microfibers and More

What does Design Change Look like for Textile Industry?
GUEST EXPERT • Krystle Moody Wood, Materevolve, LLC.

Case Study on Effectiveness of Filtration that Could be Applied in Bay Area
Lisa Erdle, University of Toronto

BIG Trends in MICROplastics Legislation in California
Nick Lapis, Californians Against Waste

Highlights from the Plastic Pollution Movement: Bay Area and Beyond
Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres

ADJOURN

The Problem with Microplastics

penny

Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic five millimeters or smaller. Their small size exempts them from most regulations, but makes microplastics a big pollution problem.

Microplastics enter the environment through human use. Beauty products with microbeads, synthetic clothing, plastic bags, polystyrene foam packaging, and disposable plastic items can all contribute to microplastic pollution.

Plastic doesn’t decay – it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Because they’re so tiny, microplastics can’t be filtered out or removed from the waters of San Francisco Bay. All plastics contribute to the microplastics problem.

These tiny bits of plastic may be harmful to aquatic life in our Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Animals mistake microplastics for food, and eating these tiny plastic bits exposes them to the pollutants within the plastics.

Results

Rebecca Sutton, et al. 2019. Understanding Microplastic Levels, Pathways, and Transport in the San Francisco Bay Region. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.

Related Publications

Sutton, R.; Sedlak, M. 2017. Microplastic Monitoring and Science Strategy for San Francisco Bay. SFEI Contribution No. 798. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, Calif.
Rebecca Sutton, et al., 2016. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Volume 109, Issue 1. Microplastic contamination in the San Francisco Bay, California, USA. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.05.077
Rebecca Sutton, 2016. Microplastic Contamination in San Francisco Bay - Fact Sheet. 2015, Revised 2016. SFEI Contribution No. 770.

Project Partners and Funding Sources

Partners:

The 5 Gyres Institute

UC Davis Center for Watershed Science

Funders:

Moore Foundation

With Additional Support From:

San Francisco Bay Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality

Patagonia

City of Palo Alto

East Bay Municipal Water District

Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation

California Ocean Protection Council

 

San Francisco Baykeeper

Associated Staff:
The release of the microplastics report prompted a far-reaching media response. The following list represents some of the significant highlights:

 

'Everywhere we looked': trillions of microplastics found in San Francisco Bay

Maanvi Singh from the US edition of the Guardian, based in the UK, writes, “It was basically everywhere we looked,” said Rebecca Sutton, an environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a local institution that led the three-year, $1.1m research effort.

The findings fit with other recent studies that detected microplastics within the deepest reaches of the ocean, flowing through UK lakes and rivers and permeating US groundwater. Scientists have also found plastic in remote regions like the Pyrenees and the Rocky Mountains, suggesting these particles can travel with the wind for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers.

Read More

Wired Magazine: A new report shows an astounding amount of microplastics, largely from car tires, are tainting the watershed

Matt Simon from Wired Magazine writes:

San Francisco Bay, like Monterey Bay to its south, is a rare success story in ocean conservation. In the 1960s, three grassroots activists—Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick—launched Save the Bay, which beat back developers trying to fill in parts of the iconic body of water.

But also like Monterey Bay, San Francisco Bay has all the while been poisoned by an invisible menace—microplastic. Yesterday at a summit in Berkeley on the east shore of the Bay, the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the 5 Gyres Institute presented findings from a three-year survey of microplastics in Silicon Valley’s massive watershed.

The news is grim: an estimated 7 trillion (yes, with a “t”) pieces of microplastic are entering the Bay via stormwater each year, much of the debris likely coming from car tires, with treated wastewater contributing another 17 billion (this time with a “b”) particles, largely from synthetic fibers in clothing. They found particles everywhere—in surface waters, in sediments, in fish. The less grim news: The research inadvertently discovered a way to help stop microplastics from reaching aquatic habitats, and it’s bringing some rigor to the still-nascent field of microplastics research.

Read More

San Jose Mercury News: 7 trillion tiny pieces of plastic wash into San Francisco Bay every year, new study shows

On October 2nd, 2019, Paul Rogers released an article in the San Jose Mercury News regarding this microplastics study, in which he asserted, "The three-year study found that billions of pieces of “microplastic” — particles smaller than 5 millimeters each, or roughly the size of a pencil eraser — pour through the Bay Area’s 40 sewage treatment plants every year. The particles come from synthetic fibers in clothing, like fleece jackets that shed in washing machines or baby wipes flushed down toilets, and then wash down sewer pipes, pass through treatment plant filters and empty into bay waters.

"But 300 times more of the relentless toxic confetti, the study revealed, comes from storm drains, the largest source of the particles. The drains collect plastic litter from roads, foam food packaging, rubber bits from car tires, and other sources, and deliver the debris to creeks and the bay, especially during wet winter months, where it breaks down but never fully disappears."

Read More

LA Times: The biggest likely source of microplastics in California coastal waters? Our car tires

Rosanna Xia of the LA Times writes:

"Driving is not just an air pollution and climate change problem — turns out, it just might be the largest contributor of microplastics in California coastal waters.

"That is one of many new findings, released Wednesday, from the most comprehensive study to date on microplastics in California. Rainfall washes more than 7 trillion microplastics, much of it tire particles left behind on streets, into San Francisco Bay each year — an amount 300 times greater than what comes from microfibers washing off polyester clothes, microbeads from beauty products and the many other plastics washing down our sinks and sewers."

Read More

SF Chronicle: Huge amounts of plastic, much of it from car tires, washing into SF Bay, study finds

Kurtis Alexander of the SF Chronicle writes:

More than 7 trillion tiny pieces of plastic wash from city streets into San Francisco Bay each year, a new study finds, a staggering amount of pollution that researchers weren’t entirely aware of and aren’t prepared to stop.

The microplastic, defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters, are the remnants of bottles, cigarettes, clothing fibers and a seemingly endless list of plastic products. They’re pushed by rain into storm drains and carried through rivers and creeks into the bay. Nearly half of this pollution, according to the report, consists of black rubbery fragments that the study’s authors believe are from worn tires.

Read More

Visit the page hosted by project partner 5 Gyres to learn about the suite of solutions proposed to address the problem of microplastics:

Plastic pollution is gaining global recognition as a threat to the resilience and productivity of ocean ecosystems. However, we are only just beginning to understand the scope and impacts of microplastic particles (less than 5 mm) on coastal and ocean resources, and the San Francisco Bay Area is no exception. A preliminary study of nine water sites in San Francisco Bay, published in 2016, showed greater levels of microplastics than the Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay. Based on these findings, the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) organized a workshop with stakeholders, scientific experts, and regulatory staff to identify major data gaps and management questions. SFEI developed a Microplastic Strategy to outline the essential scientific studies needed to inform management actions.

With a generous grant of $880,250 from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, $75,000 from the Bay's Regional Monitoring Program, and support from Patagonia, City of Palo Alto, East Bay Municipal Utility District, and San Francisco Baykeeper, scientists from SFEI and The 5 Gyres Institute have embarked on a two-year study to address the highest priority elements identified in the Strategy (3 minute video). 

This project includes multiple scientific components to develop improved knowledge of microplastic in the Bay Area environment and prioritize practical steps to reduce pollution:  

  • Baseline microplastic monitoring in San Francisco Bay surface water, sediment, and fish 
  • Monitoring in National Marine Sanctuary surface waters outside of the Golden Gate
  • Characterization of microplastics in treated wastewater and stormwater flowing into the Bay
  • Rigorous method development and standardization 
  • Development of modeling tools to link Bay contamination to that of adjacent Sanctuaries
  • Data-driven policy options for the Bay Area developed with leading national and regional experts 
  • Sharing findings with regional stakeholders and the public  

The scientific information, tools, and policy recommendations developed via the San Francisco Bay microplastic project are intended to catalyze similar efforts to understand and reduce plastic pollution around the globe. 

Track the latest developments on Instagram and Twitter: #SFBayMicroplastics

Dates: 
2017
Associated Staff: 
Carolynn Box
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Clean Water Program
Location Information