Rain During the Pandemic Leads to New Environmental Problem

NBC Universal, Inc.

Now that rain has made a comeback, there’s another reason to keep your mask on your face and off the ground.

Environmental groups say the rain could wash tons of trash into waterways sending even more masks, gloves, and other PPE used during this global pandemic into the Bay. 

“This is my first experience with San Francisco being cold and rainy,” said Rachel Stevenson who just moved there from Hawaii. 

And it was her first experience watching the water meet the dirty streets.

“As I’m biking there’s so many masks everywhere. Even when you go down to the oceanfront, you see masks everywhere, which I think is awful,” she said.

David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, described the first significant rainfall of the season as the “first flush,” causing a surge of trash to flow from our roads into waterways. 

All while a surge of COVID-19 cases grips the country. 

“Because of COVID, this first flush of trash in the bay is actually going to be much worse. We’re all generating a lot more trash and much of it is ending up as litter on our streets,” he said.

The California Coastal Commission, which conducted a statewide cleanup in September, tracks 50 types of debris.   

Masks and gloves came in at number 12, extraordinarily high, leaders say, considering this is the first time PPE has made the list. 

“Once it’s in the Bay, it’s there for a long time choking wildlife, poisoning the water, sometimes for centuries,” Lewis said.

Many people are asking others to please wear a mask, and put them in the trash once they're done with them -- not the streets. 

Caltrans says its workers have also noticed more PPE on roadways. But not a big enough increase to change how often trash is picked up. 

Contact Us