Registration Open: California Ocean Litter Strategy Webinar

Join the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program for a bi-annual California Ocean Litter Strategy webinar.

The webinar will include updates and developments from federal and California agencies on research and policy related to plastic and marine debris.

Webinar Details

This webinar will be hosted on Zoom.

Thursday, November 17, 2022 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. PST

Register Online … read more

A Reckoning for Plastic Pollution

By Mark Gold, D.Env.

By now, everyone in the nation, if not globally has heard about California’s groundbreaking new circular economy and plastic pollution reduction law: SB 54. Senator Ben Allen, an OPC council member, authored the bill and received tremendous support from the Newsom administration, leadership in the legislature, the environmental community, manufacturers, and waste managers: an extraordinary and unprecedented coalition. Governor Newsom, always ready to seize the day, put California into the global environmental limelight with a stroke of a pen on the same day as the Supreme Court condemned millions of people to devastating public health threats through a court ruling that prevents the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from taking broad greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction action on power plants. California’s move to an extended producer responsibility and circular economy approach to plastic pollution reduction builds on the state’s marine debris leadership through plastic bag bans, the ocean litter prevention strategy (PDF) developed by OPC and NOAA, and the world’s first comprehensive microplastics strategy (PDF).

… read more

California and Canada Partner to Advance Bold Action on Climate and Biodiversity

Building on California’s global leadership on biodiversity and climate, and following the partnership established with New Zealand last month, Governor Gavin Newsom and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau announced a new partnership on June 9 to advance bold action on climate change and biodiversity conservation. California and Canada signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) focused on fighting climate change, reducing pollution, cutting back on plastic waste, advancing zero-emission vehicles, protecting species and habitats, and building climate resilience.

Credit: Sandra Fogg

At the California Science Center in Los Angeles during the Summit of the Americas, Governor Newsom and Prime Minister Trudeau, along with their respective delegations, held a bilateral meeting to discuss California and Canada’s shared values, which are reflected in the MOC. These include enhancing partnerships with  Indigenous Peoples, accelerating biodiversity conservation efforts, and conserving 30% of lands and waters by 2030.

The partnership also advances the goals and objectives of the California Ocean Litter Strategy and Statewide Microplastics Strategy to prevent plastic pollution by partnering on a range of complementary voluntary and regulatory actions spanning the plastics lifecycle in order to address the threats of plastic waste and pollution, including microplastics, on the health of the environment and ecosystems, including wildlife, rivers, lakes and ocean.

A joint statement on the new California-Canada climate action and nature protection partnership can be found here.

California Ocean Litter Strategy Workshop: June 21 and June 22

Registration is open for the California Ocean Litter Strategy Implementation Workshop! This virtual workshop will take place Tuesday, June 21st from 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM and Wednesday, June 22nd from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM (Pacific Time).

Join federal and state agency partners, practitioners, and stakeholders to share information on projects and research that advance the California Ocean Litter Strategy and Statewide Microplastics Strategy to prevent and reduce ocean litter in California.

Register by Wed. June 15, 2022
View the
participant agenda for more information

California Proposes New Requirement for Tiremakers to Seek Chemical Alternatives to Protect Water Quality, Coho Salmon

California has the largest network of freeways in the country and its cities are known for heavy traffic. Vehicle and traffic emissions not only impact air quality – but can degrade water quality.

When it rains, stormwater carries particles from vehicle tires and brake pads – such as zinc, copper, and microplastics – from city streets and highways into California’s streams, rivers, and ocean waters. Tire particles are also among the largest known sources of microplastic pollution with research completed in San Francisco Bay identifying nearly 50 percent of microplastic fibers that entered the Bay as vehicle tire wear.

Once in the environment, tire particles can be ingested by small organisms or bind with other contaminants, threatening the health of wildlife and entire watersheds that connect California summits to the sea.

Coho salmon. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Under a new regulation proposed by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), companies manufacturing motor vehicle tires for sale in California will have to evaluate safer alternatives to 6PPD, a chemical that readily reacts to form another chemical known to endanger California waters and kill threatened coho salmon. … read more

United Nations Adopts Historic Resolution to End Plastic Pollution

Today, after a week of debate, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in Nairobi unanimously approved a resolution to end plastic pollution, setting the stage to create a legally binding treaty by 2024 to prevent and reduce global plastic pollution.

Microplastics image courtesy NOAA

Plastic production has risen exponentially in the last decades with 11 million metric tons estimated to end up in the world’s ocean each year.

The landmark agreement commits to addressing the full lifecycle of plastics and calls for enhanced international collaboration to advance solutions and circular economy approaches – to reduce the impact of plastic pollution from its source to the sea.

The resolution aligns with the Statewide Microplastic Strategy adopted by the Ocean Protection Council on February 23, 2022, recognizing: … read more

California Takes Decisive Action to Reduce Microplastics Pollution: State Adopts a First-in-Nation Approach to Protecting Ocean and Human Health 

Trash at Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA. Photo by Shira Bezalel, San Francisco Estuary Institute.

SACRAMENTO, CA – In response to increasing concern about pervasive and persistent pollution caused by microplastics, the California Ocean Protection Council yesterday approved the first comprehensive microplastics strategy in the nation. This leading-edge Statewide Microplastics Strategy identifies early actions and research priorities to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment. Worldwide, an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Without any intervention, this amount is anticipated to triple by 2040. Over time, plastics break down in aquatic environments into pieces of ever-decreasing size, with those less than 5 mm in size known as “microplastics,” which are easily ingested by ocean life, causing harm such as tissue inflammation, impaired growth, developmental abnormalities and reproductive complications.

Microplastics have also been found in human stool, lung, and placenta samples, and within soils and plants. Research in California has identified tire and road wear, synthetic textiles, cigarette filters and single-use plastic foodware as among the top sources of microplastics in California bay and ocean waters, sediment and fish tissue. Precautionary management of microplastic pollution and upstream source reduction are the most effective response to this crisis.

“Microplastics are poisoning the ocean, both across the planet and off the California coast,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “We must take action, and this strategy shows us how. By reducing pollution at its source, we safeguard the health of our rivers, wetlands and oceans, and protect all of the people and nature that depends on these waters.”

“Some solutions, like stormwater infiltration projects and better compliance with nurdle discharge prohibitions, can reduce microplastics immediately”, said OPC Executive Director, Mark Gold. “But we can not dramatically reduce microplastic pollution without leadership from the textile industry and tire manufacturers to produce consumer products that don’t add to the growing problem.”

This Statewide Microplastic Strategy provides a multi-year roadmap for California to take a national and global leadership role in managing microplastics pollution by utilizing a two-track approach to manage microplastic pollution. … read more

Landmark Statewide Microplastics Strategy Recommends Early Actions and Research Priorities to Reduce Microplastic Pollution

In response to increasing concern about pervasive and persistent pollution caused by microplastics, California has prepared a first-of-its-kind Statewide Microplastics Strategy that recommends early actions and research priorities to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment. The Strategy follows the direction of Senate Bill 1263 (Portantino), which was signed into law in 2018 and is scheduled for adoption by the Ocean Protection Council at its Wednesday, Feb. 23 meeting. 

University of Toronto / Tsui, N.

Essential to California’s Microplastic Strategy is the recognition that decisive, precautionary action to reduce microplastic pollution must be taken now, such as taking comprehensive action to reduce single-use plastics and other top sources of marine litter, while scientific knowledge and understanding of microplastics sources, impacts, and successful reduction measures continue to grow. Plastics are ubiquitous in both our daily lives and in the environment. Worldwide, an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and without any intervention, this amount is anticipated to triple by 2040. Over time, plastics break down in aquatic environments into pieces of ever-decreasing size, with those less than 5 mm in size known as microplastics.  

Microplastics are easily ingested by marine life, causing harm such as tissue inflammation, impaired growth, developmental anomalies, and reproductive difficulties. Microplastics have also been found in human stool, lung, and placenta samples, indicating the potential for human health impacts, and within soils and plants.

Research in California has identified tire and road wear, synthetic textiles, cigarette filters and single-use plastic foodware as among the top identified sources of microplastics in California bay and ocean waters, sediment, and fish tissue.

The Statewide Microplastics Strategy sets a multi-year roadmap for California to take a national and global leadership role in managing microplastics pollution. The Strategy outlines a two-track approach to comprehensively manage microplastic pollution: the first track lists immediate, no regrets actions and multi-benefit solutions to reduce and manage microplastic pollution, and the second track outlines a comprehensive research strategy to enhance the scientific understanding of microplastics in California and inform future action.  

Photo courtesy National Science Foundation/SCR #193528

Solutions 

  • Pollution Prevention: Eliminate plastic waste at the source (products or materials from which microplastics originate). 
  • Pathway Interventions: Intervene within specific pathways (ex: stormwater runoff, wastewater, aerial deposition) that mobilize microplastics into California waters. 
  • Outreach & Education: Engage and inform the public and industries of microplastic sources, impacts, and solutions. 

Science to Inform Future Action 

  • Monitoring: Understand and identify trends of microplastic pollution statewide. 
  • Risk Thresholds & Assessment: Improve understanding of impacts to aquatic life and human health. 
  • Sources & Pathways Prioritization: Identify & prioritize future management solutions based on local data. 
  • Evaluating New Solutions: Develop and implement future solutions.  

The public is invited to participate in the Feb. 23 meeting. Agenda and instructions on joining can be found here.

OPC’s Year in Review: Meeting Challenges, Advancing Equity, Protecting Our Ocean

“As we look to 2022, our goal at the agency is to… continue California’s global leadership, combating climate change, transitioning our economy, and protecting our people and nature in the meantime. I believe strongly that people are resilient and that nature is resilient. We can adapt and weather these changes we are experiencing right now, and we at the Natural Resources Agency and across state government are focused on strengthening the resilience of our communities, our residents, and of our natural places to these changes we are experiencing. I’m optimistic that we will work harder than ever before and make unprecedented process toward building this resilience.” – from California Natural Resources Secretary and Ocean Protection Council Chair Wade Crowfoot’s end of the year video message

As 2021 brought global challenges to the forefront, the state of California responded with bold, decisive actions to protect our coast and ocean. OPC staff led multiple projects designed to restore wetlands, improve water quality, prevent plastic pollution, respond to environmental justice inequities, promote sustainable fisheries, protect marine wildlife and build resilience to climate change.

Despite the many looming threats, we continue to find hope in the form of scientific solutions to the planet’s biggest problems and in the promising work done by our grantees on the front lines. Join us in celebrating specific achievements from the past year below: … read more

Draft Statewide Microplastics Strategy is Available for Public Comment

OPC is pleased to release the draft Statewide Microplastics Strategy, which outlines a statewide research strategy and recommended early actions to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment, consistent with Senate Bill 1263 (Portantino, 2018).

We welcome feedback on this draft Strategy.

Public comment should be submitted to OPCmicroplastics@resources.ca.gov by 5:00 pm on January 21, 2022.

 A revised draft, based on public comment, is anticipated to be released in February 2022 for consideration by the Ocean Protection Council at its February 23, 2022 meeting. Questions can be directed to OPC’s Water Quality Program Manager, Kaitlyn Kalua at Kaitlyn.Kalua@resources.ca.gov.