Armed with trash bags and trash-picking gadgets, over 7,000 volunteers combed coastlines and green spaces around the Bay Area Saturday to clean up any-and-all stray trash.
San Francisco might have one of the largest concentrations of parks of any city in the country, but that’s not to say we, and other Bay Area metros, don’t have a trash problem, either. That's why events like the annual Battle for the Bay, which is on its 35th iteration, are so important. The cleanup day traditionally comes with a friendly competitive component, too: whichever city collects the most pounds of trash wins.
We’re out here at Islais Creek Park to #BattleForTheBay! More than 350 volunteers came out to this park to clean up along our southeastern coastline, the most for this site in the history of Coastal Cleanup Day. Let’s show Oakland and San Jose what we’ve got, #TeamSF! pic.twitter.com/vwXq4WtMkV— London Breed (@LondonBreed) September 21, 2019
"It hurts to see my community look this bad, so having an opportunity to come out and clean up whatever I can, little by little, it helps out," said one Carlos Padilla of San Leandro to ABC 7, volunteering his Saturday morning to help gather the illegally dumped plastics and whatnot along Oakland’s Permain Street.
And Padilla was by no means alone. Per KTVU, roughly 2,900 signed-up to volunteer as part of the East Bay leg of the Battle for the Bay; San Francisco saw 3,500 sign-ups, San Jose seeing another 550 pledges.
Over 50 US soldiers could be seen carrying trash bags filled with debris taken from under Interstate 880 in East Oakland yesterday, as well. Similar cleanup events were happened across the South Bay, as well, with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo joining in to help green-up our slice of Northern California.
It’s #CoastalCleanupDay! I’m grateful to @valleywater and our many volunteers who turned out to clean our city+waterways this morning, and eagerly await the results of our #BattlefortheBay competition w/ Mayors @LondonBreed & @LibbySchaaf! pic.twitter.com/3f2iDWqnVh— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) September 21, 2019
#BattleForTheBay - San Francisco vs Oakland vs San Jose - is underway! Which city can make the biggest impact on the Bay today, by picking up trash, planting trees, & restoring habitat? My money is on San Francisco! pic.twitter.com/40p1x5dVYu— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) September 21, 2019
But yesterday’s mass cleanup was just as much about removing single-use plastics as it was a call to improve our “quality of life.”
"It is [about] quality of life,” Alameda County Board District 4 Supervisor, Nate Miley, says to ABC 7, also driving home the point that we all need to be responsible for how we dispose of the trash we produce. “So, if you let your communities go, to deteriorate, it's just to lead to more deterioration, more crime, more violence.”
On the other side of the Bay Bridge in SF, gaggles of yellow-and orange-vested individuals could be seen at popular recreational areas, like Dolores Park and Baker Beach, and other areas, properly disposing of any abandoned pieces of man-made debris.
State Senator Scott Wiener — who could be seen wearing gloves, picking-up trash at a creek cleanup site near SFO — said that Saturday’s efforts served as a “crucial reminder” that California needs to mitigate its dependence on single-use plastics; he and the over 60 volunteers at that SFO site had managed to fill dozens of trash bags with the synthetic product...before noon.
“The most important thing that we can be doing as a state is not having that garbage in the first place,” Wiener said to the Chronicle. “We know that [San Francisco] is the best and most beautiful and most environmentally sustainable city on the planet.”
Overall, at least 400 cleanups were organized in the Bay Area, with more than 1,000 reported throughout the state as part of Coastal Cleanup Day, according to Eben Schwartz of the California Coastal Commission, as reported by CBS SF.
The winning city of the Battle for the Bay competition is expected to be announced Monday.
For more information on how you can thwart your use of plastics, visit greeneducationfoundation.org
Photo: Scott Wiener/Twitter