The NOAA Marine Debris Program Awards Funding to 8 New Projects to Prevent Marine Debris

Students participating in an educational marine debris art activity. The students are in a circle around a plastic tarp, painting marine debris messages on pieces of wood.
Students paint marine debris messages on signs (Photo: Hawaii Wildlife Fund)

After a highly competitive review process, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to announce the 8 recipients of our 2022 Marine Debris Prevention awards, totaling approximately $1.7 million of funding for marine debris prevention efforts in the United States, Mexico, and the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border areas. The projects awarded under this nationwide competitive funding opportunity continue the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s commitment to develop impactful, community-driven, and cost-effective projects that benefit coastal habitats, waterways, wildlife, and surrounding communities. 

With funding provided by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Implementation Act, the awards also represent the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s commitment to supporting the environmental goals of the USMCA, including the need to take action to prevent and reduce marine debris in order to preserve human health and marine and coastal ecosystems, prevent the loss of biodiversity, and mitigate the costs and impacts of marine debris. 

The 2022 funded projects are:

Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies (Alaska, $184,168) will engage local seafood industry partners to pilot the use of cellulose-mycelium coolers, which can replace foamed plastic coolers that can contribute to marine debris. The project will also engage rural Southcentral and Alaska Native communities in exploring the feasibility of a commercial community composting facility that is able to compost the bioplastics being used by restaurants, businesses, and individuals to replace single-use plastics.

Clean Water Fund (Multi-state, $200,000) will design a formal training program for businesses, academic institutions, and government agencies in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island to implement the ReThink Disposable program to reduce single-use food and beverage packaging waste. 

One Cool Earth (California, $134,178) will work with K-12 students, in both English and Spanish, at 24 public schools in San Luis Obispo County to reduce marine debris. Students will oversee lunch time waste sorting stations and engage in campus litter cleanups, waste audits, and field trips. The project will also work with teachers and school administration to incorporate marine debris education and litter prevention practices into school district policies.

Ocean Conservancy (Florida, $361,395) will work with restaurants, cafeterias, fast food services, and convenience stores in Miami-Dade County to implement practices that help prevent marine debris. The project will also engage youth in environmental stewardship through peer-to-peer mentorship, community cleanups, and outreach to businesses to help reduce single-use plastic usage. 

Parley Foundation (Hawai‘i, $250,000) will engage more than 30,000 people in learning about the importance of marine debris prevention, provide internships for underserved youth, and organize regular beach cleanups at Pokai Bay, Maunalua Bay, and Ka‘anapali Beach. 

Parley Foundation (Mexico, $345,000) will engage with local hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs in Quintana Roo to implement strategies for reducing single-use plastics. The project will also develop and install 10 multilingual public information boards to increase tourists’ awareness about the impacts of marine debris and local public policies related to plastic reduction.

Texas A&M University (Texas, $71,173) will provide outreach to for-hire fishing guides and recreational saltwater anglers in Texas about actions they can take to reduce marine debris. The project will also reduce barriers to proper disposal of monofilament fishing line and single-use plastic items commonly used during recreational fishing activities. 

Vermilion Sea Institute (Mexico, $154,301) will help Bahía de los Ángeles businesses transition to biodegradable takeout containers. The project will also train local youth to become debris prevention leaders in their community and promote proper waste disposal through the installation of collection stations for plastic bottles and food wrappers at local schools and tourism camping sites.

Awarded Prevention Projects - Archives

Click the bars below to view projects financed in that year.

2023 Funded Projects

Grantee: Oregon Surfrider Oregon Surfrider (Oregon, $50,969) will provide outreach on waste reduction and responsible disposal to Lincoln County residents around Independence Day celebrations in an effort to reduce holiday-related debris. In addition to their prevention efforts, Surfrider will host beach cleanups after the holiday to remove litter from the county’s beaches.

2021 Funded Projects

Grantee: University of Texas at Austin (Gulf of Mexico, $401,347) will tackle the problem of plastic pellet pollution in the rivers, bays, and beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. The project will create Spanish language resources, host training sessions, and develop partnerships to expand the existing Nurdle Patrol citizen science program into Mexico. The new data will be shared widely and will contribute to collaborative research and the development of potential policy solutions by individuals, scientists, resource managers, and industry representatives.
Grantee: Gulf of Maine Association (Gulf of Maine, $367,839) will create an international collaborative approach to reduce and prevent the introduction of marine debris into the Gulf of Maine. Project activities include conducting shoreline cleanups, increasing public awareness of the issue, and tracking and documenting the presence of single-use plastic consumer debris. The project will also expand a regional database to document abandoned, lost, and derelict fishing gear, providing important data for regional fisheries managers and policy makers to use in making decisions about preventing marine debris and its impacts.
Grantee: University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant (Hawai‘i $50,000) Hawai‘i Sea Grant will collaborate with Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response’s Marine Debris Program to expand programmatic activities to enhance the long-term prevention of marine debris. This includes actively raising awareness about marine debris, developing new curricula for engaging middle school students, promoting and maintaining fishing debris disposal bins, and conducting focused outreach to fishers at popular fishing sites. Additionally, this project will increase active participation of community members in an ongoing citizen-science fishing debris removal project to inform management, education, and outreach.
Grantee: WILDCOAST (Mexico, $175,950) will reduce the amount of marine debris entering the Tijuana River from the Los Laureles Canyon tributary in Mexico. The Los Laureles Canyon is a significant source of waste entering the Tijuana River and flowing down to the Pacific Ocean, including trash, tires, sewage, and other pollutants. The project will capture debris with a trash boom, dispose of the collected debris, and conduct outreach in Tijuana to support behavior change that reduces single-use plastic and polyethylene foam consumption in the city.
Grantee: Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association (Tijuana River Estuary, $574,000) will improve social-ecological resilience in the Tijuana River Estuary through marine debris prevention and removal. The project will train elected officials and decision-makers on solid waste management best practices to prevent marine debris and flooding, pilot a community-led circular economy program to reuse and generate income from waste, and improve binational flood emergency response and resilience, among other activities.
Grantee: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
Grantee: The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System (Wisconsin Sea Grant)
Grantee: Council of the Great Lakes Region (Great Lakes, $371,729) will analyze the production, use, and management of plastic material in the Great Lakes region, with a focus on how plastics become waste. In addition, the project will support the Canada Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup initiative, enabling it to expand its deployment of trash trapping technologies to the United States. Together, these activities will support the removal of more plastic debris from the Great Lakes and increase the ability of policy makers and coastal communities to address the problem of plastic pollution.

2020 Funded Projects

Grantee: North Slope Borough (Alaska, $92,183) will educate students and residents of the North Slope Borough about debris in the marine and coastal environment, focusing on how to prevent single-use plastics from the local communities. Education efforts will include raising awareness of local problems with marine debris being found in stomachs of bowhead whales, polar bears, and other marine organisms, as well as encouraging and supporting the use of alternatives to single-use plastics, and host beach cleanup events in each local community.
Grantee: Aleut Community of St. Paul Island (Alaska, $74,983) will change behaviors around the use and disposal of packing bands to prevent marine debris that poses an entanglement threat to marine wildlife on St. Paul Island, Alaska, particularly northern fur seals. It will include a localized campaign to cut plastic packing band loops prior to disposal, volunteer data collection, and the creation of messages to encourage industry to invest in environmentally friendly materials and cut their loops.
Grantee: Arizona State University (American Samoa, $85,660) will identify and implement culturally appropriate and sustainable alternatives to plastic clamshell and foam take-out food containers, plastic cups, and plastic carrier bags in at least eight local food establishments and convenience stores in American Samoa. The project will also initiate long-term behavioral change through intensive community outreach and media campaigns, and the implementation of a new “plastic-free food provider” recognition program for businesses and community groups.
Grantee: Zero Waste O‘ahu (Hawaii, $146,890) will reduce marine debris from single-use plastic take-out containers by providing a subscription service for reusable containers. This Full Cycle Takeout pilot project will save businesses money by eliminating the recurring expense of purchasing single-use food ware and generate a profit through the lease of containers.
Grantee: Zero Waste Washington (Washington, $98,475) will implement a youth-led education project to reduce barriers to plastic pollution reduction and waste prevention in the Duwamish River area of Washington State. The project will engage three cohorts of the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps to conduct peer and community outreach, including door-to-door outreach to businesses, creating and presenting videos, and developing recommendations for decision-makers.
Grantee: George Mason University (Virginia, $149,999) will work with 20 teachers and 35 high school student delegates to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles by students at two high schools in Prince William County, Virginia. The project will raise awareness of and connect participants to the ecological impacts of marine debris, expand participation in cleanup efforts, and change behaviors related to disposable water bottles.
Grantee: Mobile Baykeeper (Alabama, $149,715) will work with 18 businesses to go plastic-free, supporting the Downtown Mobile Alliance’s Clean, Safe, and Beautiful program. Participating local restaurants, businesses, and government agencies will reduce single-use plastics, educate their customers, and install public art about the problem of marine debris. The project will reduce plastic generated in the Downtown Mobile Business area by more than 1,000 pounds per year and support long-term prevention of marine debris.
Grantee: One Cool Earth (California, $60,000) will work with public schools to reach youth and affect their waste-disposal behaviors. The Earth Genius program will provide year-round marine debris education to underserved public school students, promote school-wide waste diversion and reduction policies and practices, and train and support teachers in order to reduce marine debris affecting NOAA trust resources, including the Channel Islands and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries, the Morro Bay National Estuary, and the fisheries and recreation areas along the central coast of California.
Grantee: Eckerd College (Florida, $149,928) will reduce single-use plastic consumption among undergraduates at both Eckerd College and University of North Florida by increasing individual accountability and commitments to long-term sustainable behaviors. The project will implement an easy-to-use Plastic Reduction Challenge mobile application, as well as broader education and outreach initiatives, to foster sustained individual behavioral change that results in long-term and widespread reductions in plastic consumption.
Grantee: Shedd Aquarium Society (Illinois, $72,177) will work with businesses to measurably reduce single-use plastics used in food service industry operations by building capacity and skills in Chicago communities. The project will work with minority and women-owned businesses and small businesses to change business practices, educate staff and customers, and support business leaders in adopting new sustainability efforts.
Grantee: Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan (Michigan, $50,000) will engage 500 youth from grades 3-12 to become Marine Debris Prevention Ambassadors and reduce waste produced in school lunchrooms. Teachers and their students will participate in shoreline cleanups, research and analyze their lunchroom waste, and present their findings and solutions to peers, teachers, administrators, and the school board.
Grantee: Salem Sound Coastwatch (Massachusetts, $136,846) will work with Girls Inc., and Salem Public Schools to recruit and work with groups of high school interns in Salem and Lynn, Massachusetts to execute service projects that approach the marine debris problem and the community’s reliance on single-use plastics. Students will work with the CoastSmart Restaurant Campaign to get restaurants to offer more sustainable products, while other students will produce a Composting 101 Video with restaurant owners and create a Plastic Reduction Advertisement Campaign focused on commuters.
Grantee: Rhode Island Marine Trades Association Foundation (Washington, Rhode Island, $105,452) will build a sustainable financial model for fiberglass boat recycling and assist Washington and states in the New England region in replicating the Rhode Island Fiberglass Boat Recycling Program in their respective states. The project will also develop educational tools and engage regional and national marine industry organizations and businesses to promote awareness of and participation in the creation of proactive, long-term solutions to prevent pollution, habitat destruction, and navigation impediments related to marine debris resulting from abandoned, derelict, storm-wrecked and end-of-life boats.

2019 Funded Projects

Grantee: Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will reduce the loss of plastic shotgun wads by surveying hunters to reveal the barriers to preventing shotgun wad debris, implementing best management practices, and evaluating the effectiveness of their efforts. 
Grantee: California Sea Grant will engage middle school students in urban trash surveys with a goal of understanding how different characteristics of a city block, such as a residential community, commercially zoned area, or a public space, affect the creation of marine debris.

2018 Funded Projects

Grantee: Coastal States Stewardship Foundation ($145,607) will build on a pilot program to implement their Joyful Send-off community-based social marketing campaign. The project will target weddings and other celebratory events to change behaviors related to balloon releases in the Mid-Atlantic.
Grantee: Alice Ferguson Foundation Inc. ($50,000) will build on successes in a previous community-based social marketing campaigns to reduce littering behaviors among high school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland. As part of the project, students will lead community cleanups, pilot their own litter prevention strategies, and mentor younger students.
Grantee: Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies ($99,998) will carry out zero waste campaigns with schools, businesses, and residents focused on preventing marine debris in Alaska. The project will also work with students to explore solutions to the disposal of plastics in rural communities where recycling is not available.
Grantee: University of North Carolina at Wilmington ($131,101) will connect students to the issue of marine debris through sea turtles in North Carolina. Students will perform simulated dissections of sea turtles in their classrooms, learn to identify marine debris items, and earn Turtle Trash Collectors badges.
Grantee: Surfrider Foundation, Inc. ($150,105) will reduce the amount of cigarette butt debris entering the San Francisco Bay estuary by installing cigarette butt receptacles, conducting community-based campaigns, distributing pocket ashtrays, conducting cleanups, and monitoring smoker behaviors through surveys.
Grantee: Mississippi State University ($98,552) will work with restaurants in the five Gulf Coast states to reduce the use of single-use plastic, plastic foam, and plastic lined food and beverage containers at restaurants. The project will begin by building a pilot program in Mississippi and Alabama, resulting in long term behavior changes across the Gulf Coast.
Grantee: Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources ($50,000) will install water bottle filling stations and carry out beach cleanups within 16 state parks on Hawai'i, Kauai, Maui, and O'ahu.
Grantee: Eckerd College, Inc. ($115,124) will reduce consumption of single-use plastics across the Eckerd College campus in St. Petersburg, Florida by educating students on marine debris, providing access to alternatives to common debris items, and work with the college administration to institute campus-wide initiatives.
Grantee: Surfrider Foundation, Inc. ($59,093) will utilize their existing network in Oregon to carry out a campaign that aims to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic. This project addresses three actions identified by Oregon stakeholders in the Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan.
Grantee: The Ohio State University ($49,964) will educate tourists visiting the island of Put-in-Bay on the impacts of cigarettes, straws, and single-use beverage containers on Lake Erie in Ohio. Visitors will be reached on ferries, shuttles, taxis, and at port terminals, as well as at well-known tourist sites.
Grantee: University System of New Hampshire (Keene State) ($72,604) will reduce litter from cigarettes at Keene State College in New Hampshire. The project will reach college smokers through humorous video messages aimed at changing their attitudes and behaviors.

2016 Funded Projects

Grantee: Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies ($86,512) will implement a zero-waste education and outreach campaign focused on promoting recycling and preventing single-use plastics and other land-based marine debris. The campaign will work with ten schools, local businesses, and communities throughout the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage in Alaska.
Grantee: University of Georgia ($31,009) will engage 7th grade students and teachers through an educational program and monthly marine debris cleanups to prevent debris from impacting the coastal ecosystem in the Golden Isles of Georgia. They will also develop a short educational film to increase environmental stewardship in the Golden Isles community.
Grantee: Sea Education Association, Inc. ($96,050) will utilize their current shipboard education program to teach students about marine debris and involve them in a local marine debris campaign in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Students will conduct research on plastic reduction campaigns and then design, implement, and evaluate a campaign to educate the local community about marine debris. The goal is to promote behavior changes to reduce the use of single-use plastic items.
Grantee: Hudson River Community Sailing, Inc. ($32,015) will implement an afterschool education and outreach program to inspire high school students to become stewards of the Hudson Estuary in New York City. The program will include education through marine debris curricula, field trips, cleanup activities, and the creation of a marine debris display to be installed at the Hudson River Park to educate the public about marine debris impacts and prevention.
Grantee: University of the Virgin Islands ($99,411) will modify an existing marine debris curriculum to make it more relevant to the issues in the U.S. Virgin Islands and will train teachers on the Island of St. Croix to implement the curriculum in their classrooms. The curriculum will include hands-on beach cleanup activities and the development of student-led projects such as the creation of art displays and public service announcements.
Grantee: One Cool Earth ($72,050) will implement marine debris education and student- and school-led solid waste management programs at 17 public schools in Paso Robles and Atascadero, California, to prevent land-based litter from entering the Pacific Ocean via the Salinas River.
Grantee: School District of the City of Erie, Pennsylvania ($50,434) will lead a district-wide education and outreach program that incorporates marine debris education and stewardship activities into existing curricula for 4th and 5th grade students to reduce land-based marine debris.
Grantee: Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, Inc. ($31,900) will add a national marine debris “Creative Advocacy” category to their annual Ocean Awareness Student Contest, which will challenge middle and high school students to design, implement, and assess marine debris education, outreach, and prevention projects in their schools and communities. Students will also have the chance to win a scholarship.
Grantee: Trash Free Maryland ($80,000) will conduct research on littering behaviors and then use this research to develop and implement a multi-year social marketing campaign with the goal of reducing land-based litter in Baltimore, Maryland.
Grantee: Pacific Whale Foundation ($25,000) will implement a public awareness campaign on the island of Maui to educate the public about marine debris from tobacco products and about the statewide ban in Hawaii of smoking on public beaches and in parks.
Grantee: Pan Isles Inc., Ship Island Excursions ($57,318) will provide teacher trainings on marine debris curriculum and enable teachers and their students to participate in field trips to West Ship Island in Gulfport, Mississippi, to conduct marine debris cleanups. In addition, high school students will be given summer internships to work with professional marine educators to teach the general public about marine debris aboard the West Ship Island ferry.
Grantee: Sea Turtle, Inc. ($22,565) will install a permanent, bilingual, and interactive display on marine debris in their educational facility on South Padre Island, Texas, and expand their marine debris education and outreach to include virtual, in-school, and field trip outreach sessions for elementary, middle, and high school groups. Sea Turtle, Inc. will also install educational signage at local jetties and lead community beach cleanups.