underwater photo looking up through marine debris floating on the surface.
Marine debris from below in Hawaii.

Learn the Basics

What is marine debris?
Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world's oceans and waterways.

Marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes. It is a global problem, and it is an everyday problem. There is no part of the world left untouched by debris and its impacts. Marine debris is a threat to our environment, navigation safety, the economy, and human health.

Most of all, marine debris is preventable. Learn more about marine debris and find out how.


Anything man-made, including litter and fishing gear, can become marine debris once lost or thrown into the marine environment. The most common materials that make up marine debris are plastics,...

North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

How does marine debris move and where does it go? Wind, gyres, and ocean currents all impact how marine debris gets around.

Floatable marine debris items, once they enter the ocean, are...

Turtle entangled in net

Wildlife entanglement and ingestion, economic costs, and habitat damage are some impacts of marine debris.

Economic loss
Marine debris is an eyesore along shorelines...

Japan Tsunami Debris Floating

There are many ways people can prevent and reduce marine debris – from government action to individual lifestyle changes.