About the Project
The Plastic Debris, Rivers to Sea Project is assessing and reducing sources of plastics and trash in urban runoff.
The State Water Resources Control Board, through a Proposition 13 grant, provides the majority of the funding for the Project. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation is implementing the project with the support and assistance of the California Coastal Commission. The primary goal of the project is to reduce the land-based discharges via urban runoff of plastics and other discarded materials that degrade water quality and impair beneficial uses of inland and coastal waters.
Land-based sources of plastics and other discarded materials, especially in urban areas of Southern California, are the most significant source of marine debris impacting coastal waters in that area. Trash Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) adopted for the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River watersheds focus on debris greater than 5 millimeters (mm) in size. However, recent studies conducted by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project suggest that plastic fragments less than 5mm in size are a significant source of pollution in the Pacific Ocean.
Much of the small plastic fragments and pieces that pollute the ocean are the result of discharges via urban runoff of plastic pellets and other small plastic debris associated with manufacturing of plastic products. The project is testing the effectiveness current industry-generated Best Management Practices (BMPs), known as Operation Clean Sweep,to control discharges of plastic debris through urban runoff from the plastics manufacturing sector. It is also measuring the emissions of small plastic fragments in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers to determine whether existing regulations, such as the trash TMDLs, are effective at controlling discharges of pellets and other plastic fragments from urban waterways to the ocean.
The project is assessing the materials and products make up the litter and other discarded materials that flow through the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers to the ocean. Based on this assessment, the Project is developing an Action Plan for the state of California. The Action Plan will identify different behaviors and problems that contribute plastics and other discarded materials to urban runoff. It will suggest actions to stop the flow of plastics and other discarded materials in urban runoff. The Plan will be shared with local and state government agencies, legislators, industry and parties interested in storm water pollution and ocean protection.
Other project initiatives designed to facilitate increased dialogue and awareness among government agencies, industry, and environmental organizations about the impacts and potential solutions to plastics and other discarded materials in urban runoff include: