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Bay trash is everybody’s problem

Candy wrappers, receipts, cigarette butts and grocery bags have been flowing into the San Francisco Bay for generations. A new study has broken the bad news of just how much junk ends up there each year.

1.36 million gallons of trash flows into the Bay every 12 months. The Merc likened it to 100,000 kitchen garbage bags worth of pollution every year, killing wildlife, washing out into the Pacific Ocean and causing an eyesore in the Bay.

The numbers come from a study organized by the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association after a 2009 state decision that required Bay Area communities to decrease the pollution flowing into the Bay by 40 percent before 2014.

The worst offenders?

San Jose topped the list with volume of its pollution, in part because it is the largest Bay Area city in geographic size and population. San Jose adopted the California’s strictest ban on plastic bags in 2010 after San Francisco passed a similar ban in 2007.

Tiny Colma in San Mateo County generates the most trash per capita, skewed by a small population — just 2,000 residents — and a relatively large number of stores and shopping centers.

Nearly half of the trash that ends up in the bay was plastic, the study found. 49 percent of the gunk was plastic of various flavors, 21 percent was paper, and 8 percent were plastic grocery bags.

BASMAA executive director Geoff Brosseau told the Merc there’s a simple yet perpetually elusive fix to the trash problem:

 “This is 100 percent preventable. Trash doesn’t happen by itself. If we can get people to modify their behavior, we’ll make huge gains.”

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