California Trash Monitoring Methods Project

The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC), in close partnership with the State Water Board, has recognized the importance of standard methods for trash monitoring and has funded this project. The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) and San Francisco Bay Estuary Institute (SFEI) have partnered up to test multiple trash monitoring methods with a goal of developing a library of methods with known levels of precision, accuracy, and cross-comparability of results, and linking these methods to specific management questions .

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Project Goals


Develop a library of standard trash monitoring methods through field testing, research, and outreach

Management Questions

Link management questions to viable trash monitoring methods

New Method Development

Explore novel methods for monitoring trash to measure their practicality and effectiveness

Information Exchange

Recommend standards in trash monitoring methods and information management to facilitate statewide trash characterization


In 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) adopted an Amendment to the Ocean Waters of California (Ocean Plan) to Control Trash and Part 1 Trash Provision of the Water Quality Control Plan for Inland Surface Waters, Enclosed Bays, and Estuaries (ISWEBE Plan). Together these are referred to as the Trash Amendments. The Trash Amendments prohibit discharge of trash larger than 5 millimeters to state waters from stormwater systems. The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) sent a letter to the Water Board supporting adoption of the Trash Amendments in 2015. The letter expressed the OPC’s interest in the use of scientific measures to track and verify program effectiveness. Currently there is no agreed-upon scientific method to monitor for trash in water and receiving stormwater channels. This makes assessing permittees’ compliance and general progress on reducing trash in state waters difficult. This project would provide the research needed to develop scientific measures to monitor trash.

Why is this project needed?

New trash-related programs are emerging, regional in scale. The methods used vary broadly, with a lack of exchangeable information among various programs, partners, regulators, and the public. A new statewide library of standard methods can:

  • broaden the vision for monitoring trash
  • foster greater consistency among approaches
  • promote free, meaningful exchange of data & information
  • Identify opportunities for innovation

Project Timeline