Litter Hurts


Our Clean Water mascots encounter bottle caps, six-pack rings, bags and other litter dangers every day in Alameda County. Egrets, herons, red-legged frogs, turtles, seagulls, trout, stilts... all birds, fish and amphibians are at risk.


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Many studies have documented the harm litter causes when it remains in the water. The most common items—cigarette butts and plastics—degrade slowly over time and leave behind toxic residue and tiny particles. Birds, fish and other animals mistake these items for food, and can die or become sick, as their digestive system becomes clogged.

During any local creek or beach cleanup, volunteers find hundreds of pounds of litter. Much of it is not dropped directly into or near the water, because litter travels—even from miles away. Trash tossed on the ground in Livermore can easily find its way to the ocean. It can blow over land or move through storm drains that lead directly to creeks, wetlands and eventually the Bay.

litter algalita birdBottle caps and other plastic objects are visible inside the decomposed carcass of this Laysan albatoss on Kure Atoll, which lies in a remote and virtually uninhabited region of the North Pacific. Photo by Cynthia Vanderlip and Algalita Marine Research Foundationlitter turtle with sixpackringPeanut” the turtle was caught in a six pack ring, but was found and rescued by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Litter that flows into the Bay can eventually end up in one of the identified “garbage patches” where ocean currents trap the plastic micro-debris in a gyre. Litter and its harmful effects have been documented in some of the remotest regions of the planet, which means what we do right here at home in Alameda County can have far reaching effects—both good and bad.

For a more an overview on ocean garbage patches watch this short video by NOAA.

What You Can Do

Participate in local cleanups.

Many cities and local nonprofits sponsor cleanups. Coastal Cleanup Day happens every September and offers many opportunities to pitch in. See our Volunteer page for more.

Put litter in its place.

Use nearby garbage cans or pack your trash until you reach the next available trash can. If possible, pick up any litter you see, and dispose of it properly.

Use reusables.

You can prevent litter by using a travel mug, cloth napkin and reusable lunch kits.

Tell your friends.

Many people don’t know how serious a problem litter is. You can help by encouraging your friends to put litter in the right place.