Solutions

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

This unique program turns marine debris in Hawai'i into usable electricity.

Volunteer to pick up marine litter in your local community and help keep our coastlines clear!

Students and teachers can take active roles in preventing the problem of marine debris. Educating students - and their families - on the importance of understanding and changing the behaviors that cause debris is an important step. Here are some guidelines students and educators can follow to help reduce the amount of marine debris that enters our waters.

As a boater or marina owner, you appreciate all that our oceans and waterways have to offer, and you want to ensure that you - and your customers - can enjoy those waters again and again. Unfortunately, marine debris poses several threats to boaters and the oceans and waterways they enjoy. You can help reduce the amount of marine debris that enters the water and help keep boating enjoyable by following these guidelines:

As a fisher, you respect and appreciate our oceans and waterways and you want to ensure that future generations can carry on the fishing tradition. Unfortunately, marine debris poses several threats to people who enjoy fishing and its related activities. You can help reduce the amount of debris that enters the oceans and other waterways by following these guidelines:

Sand, surf, sun and fun - these are just some reasons you love going to the shore. Unfortunately, marine debris can trash your day at the beach. In addition to being unsightly, debris can also pose threats to beachgoers just like you. Here are some steps that you can take to help keep oceans, waterways and beaches free of debris:

The Honolulu Strategy is a framework for a comprehensive and global effort to reduce the ecological, human health, and economic impacts of marine debris.

Recycling is not only a way to reduce your impact, but also a great way to prevent marine debris! Learn to do it correctly.

The Great Lakes Land-based Marine Debris Action Plan provides partners a roadmap to success for addressing marine debris in the region.

Japan Tsunami Debris Floating
Japan Tsunami Debris Floating

FAQs

Can I get involved in the Great Lakes Marine Debris Action Plan?

Yes! We welcome your participation. Please contact Sarah.Lowe@noaa.gov.

Can you clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch?

The answer to this is not as simple as you may think. It is certainly not cost-effective to skim the surface of the entire ocean. Even a cleanup focusing on “garbage patches” would be a tremendous challenge. Keep in mind these points:

  • Concentration areas move and change throughout the year
  • These areas are typically very large (see below)
  • The marine debris is not distributed evenly within these areas
  • Modes of transport and cleanup will likely require fuel of some sort
  • Most of the marine debris found in these areas is small bits of plastic

This all adds up to a bigger challenge than even sifting beach sand to remove bits of marine debris. In some areas where marine debris concentrates, so does marine life. This makes simple skimming of the debris risky—more harm than good may be caused. Remember that much of our ocean life is in the microscopic size range. For example, straining ocean waters for plastics (e.g., microplastics) would capture the plankton that are the base of the marine food web and responsible for 50 percent of the photosynthesis on Earth… roughly equivalent to all land plants! 

Also, keep in mind that our oceans are immense areas! The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean on the planet covering nearly 30 percent of Earth’s surface area (~96 million square miles, or ~15 times the size of the continental US). Surveying less than 1 percent of the North Pacific Ocean, a 3-degree swath between 30° and 35°N and 150° to 180°W, requires covering approximately 1 x 106 km2. If you traveled at 11 knots (20 km/hour), and surveyed during daylight hours (approximately 10 hours a day) the area within 100m off of each side of your ship (Mio et al., 1990), it would take 68 ships one year to cover that area! Now, add to that the fact that these areas of debris concentration have no distinct boundaries, move throughout the year, and are affected by seasons, climate, El Nino, etc.