Litter Prevention

Littering is “trashing” our home and harming wildlife. Together we can reduce litter to create healthier spaces and happier communities. 

Nearly 80 percent of the litter found in our creeks and the Bay is washed, blown or dumped there from land! One piece of litter can end up miles from where it is thrown. Litter pollutes our waterways and threatens wildlife. Litter that stays on land also causes harm to soil, plants, animals, and people.

How Litter Can Harm Animals (and People Too!)

  • Fishing lines and other plastics can wrap around fins, flippers and limbs of fish and other animals in the water.
  • Plastic bags, deflated balloons or bits of litter can be mistaken for food and get swallowed, blocking an animal’s digestive tract.
  • Chemicals found in plastics and other trash can leach into the water, polluting it further.
  • A littered environment encourages more littering and other types of vandalism.

How Litter Happens

Some litter is intentional, caused by people throwing trash on the ground or out of car windows. Other litter happens unintentionally, falling off trucks with uncovered loads, or when wind blows trash out of recycling and trash containers with open lids, or from loading docks and construction sites. All types of litter can be prevented!

Click here to download this graphic showing how litter ends up in our creeks.

Prevent Litter and Make a Difference!

  • Buy less and reuse.

  • Always use a trash can. If you see litter, pick it up and put it in a trash can. Even tiny cigarette butts are toxic! Litter thrown on a city street can flow through a storm drain into a local creek.

  • Keep garbage and recycling cans tightly covered to prevent litter from being blown away or scattered by foraging animals.

  • Learn how to dispose different types of trash. Visit Recycle Stuff: How to Recycle Anything in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties

  • Clean leaves and trash out of your home’s gutters and your street’s storm drains.

  • Pick up and put pet waste in the garbage.

  • Bring extra bags for trash when picnicking, hiking or camping outdoors.

  • Keep a trash bag in the car. Collect all trash and dispose of it properly.

  • Cover truck loads with a tarp to prevent anything from falling or blowing off the back.

  • Never dump anything outside. There are better solutions for any items you may have.

    • For household hazardous waste, like motor oil, paints and cleaners, contact the Santa Clara County Household Hazardous Waste Program to learn how to dispose of these items properly, at no charge.

    • Call the Santa Clara Countywide Recycling Hotline at (800) 533-8414 or visit to find out how to dispose of or donate large items and appliances.

  • Volunteer to organize a creek cleanup with the Valley Water’s Adopt-A-Creek Program.

  • Join a cleanup event for National River Cleanup Day in May and Coastal Cleanup Day in September

Putting litter in the trashcan
Litter, cleanup, volunteers
The Watershed Watch Campaign is an initiative of
the following agencies: