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New Hopes for a Plastic-Free Watershed

On a recent visit to the Escondido Creek, massive amounts of trash and plastic were found collecting at the end of the concrete channel draining into Elfin Forest. In the Escondido Creek watershed, water flows from Valley Center, through Escondido’s concrete channel, and drains into the ocean through San Elijo Lagoon. Plastic and trash flow along with the water causing problems for animals as they disturb riparian and aquatic ecosystems. Recently, however, big businesses, universities, and local cities are taking action to stop plastic pollution.

Across the country, businesses are making changes in their policies to end their contribution to disposable plastics. According to the Ellen Mac-Arthur Foundation, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Walmart, and Werner & Mertz are just some of the corporations that have committed to using only reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025. Together these companies use more than 6 million metric tons of plastic packaging a year.

In our neighboring watershed, students from California State University of San Marcos are working on changing consumer habits when it comes to disposable plastics. Students celebrated their first and last Straw-free February, which required that plastic straws be given out on an ask-only basis. The student response went so well that the school has adopted this as a permanent policy going forward.

“I hoped to bring awareness to the plastic problem that we face in the oceans today… As a university, we should be setting trends of sustainability and leading the movement…”said Kim Anderson, CSUSM’s Sustainability Representative. Anderson helped organize the event and was also one of several students who proposed a plastic straw ban to the City of Encinitas last year, which the Environmental Commission is currently considering.

With big businesses transitioning to more sustainable packaging, local governments adopting plastic-free policies, and universities changing consumer culture in schools, the future of our watershed health and aquatic ecosystems looks hopeful. But unless cities upstream also consider adopting plastic-free policies, it may be some time before we see any progress in our watershed. If you’re interested in helping clean up our watershed, be on the lookout for more information on our annual Creek To Bay Clean-up being hosted at Los Cielos Preserve on April 21st.