Students learn about debris at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium).


The Marine Debris Program supports projects across the country that use outreach and education as a way to prevent marine debris. These projects aim to change behavior, especially among youth, and provide them with hands-on experiences that deepen their understanding of the marine debris problem.

Active Prevention Projects

Nets on a beach in Hawaii.
This unique public-private partnership turns derelict fishing nets in Hawai'i into usable electricity.
A plastic water bottle buried in a sand dune.

The Connecticut Audubon Society is working with 14 schools in the Long Island Sound watershed to assess the most prevalent types of marine debris in local waterways and implement prevention methods using student-designed solutions.

A plastic water bottle floating along the shoreline of a marsh.

The University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Sciences - Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is expanding their “Wave of Plastics” curricular unit into two new Maryland counties,to help reduce marine debris in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

A trash can overflowing with trash on a beach with more litter around it.

Oregon Surfrider is using community outreach and community cleanups to reduce consumer and firework debris from Independence Day celebrations along Lincoln County beaches.

Three people carry a large bag down the beach during a cleanup.

Parley Foundation is working in select cities in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico to raise awareness of plastic consumption and engage local businesses in strategies to reduce consumer plastic waste.

A tangled mass of monofilament fishing line.

The Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University will work with the coastal Texas recreational fishing industry to reduce barriers to preventing marine debris including monofilament fishing line and single-use plastic items.

Hands hold up the four sides of a structure made from mycelium fungus.
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies is working with students and the public to identify and reduce single-use plastics while evaluating and encouraging the use of bio-based packaging alternatives.
ReThink Disposable worked with Honolulu BBQ, a restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area, to switch to reusable food ware (Photo: Clean Water Fund).

Clean Water Fund is expanding the California-based ReThink Disposable program to seven states on the East Coast and Great Lakes to provide assistance in converting operations from single-use food and beverage packaging to reusable foodware.

Six students wearing "Green Team" jackets lined up in a schoolyard.
One Cool Earth is leading an alliance of partners across the Central Coast of California to incorporate marine debris reduction activities in schools and empower youth to change their waste disposal behaviors.
Volunteers removing a derelict fishing net from the shoreline.

The Vermilion Sea Institute is expanding the work and research of local youth in the Aventureros educational program to support the Bahía de los Ángeles community in Baja California, Mexico in reducing single-use plastics and waste.

A pair of presenters at a table talking about marine debris to a group.
Parley Foundation is implementing a marine debris prevention initiative focused on the impacts of derelict fishing gear and single-use plastics in Hawai‘i.
A shoreline covered in plastic bottles and other marine debris.
The Ocean Conservancy and their partners will engage local Miami-Dade County youth and businesses through their Plastic Free Cities campaign to reduce single-use plastics.
Students handing out reusable water bottles and bags at an outdoor campus event.

Students and teachers at Simon A. Sanchez High School and John F. Kennedy High School in Guam are implementing Ocean Guardian School projects that prevent marine debris and encourage students to lead environmental stewardship in their communities.

Nurdle Patrol citizen scientist holding up a small jar full of plastic pellets, or nurdles, collected on the beach.

The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute is working with partners in Mexico to expand their Nurdle Patrol monitoring project while increasing collaboration among scientists, resource managers, and industry representatives in the Gulf of Mexico.

A mound of ropes, net, and other fishing gear piled on a rocky shoreline.

Partners across the Gulf of Maine are working together to prevent and remove marine debris by engaging volunteers, local businesses, coastal communities, fishing industries, and environmental justice populations in learning about the impact of marine debris on natural resources and taking action to make a difference.

A shoe and other debris scattered on a sandy ocean beach.
Puerto Rico Sea Grant will develop a bilingual marine debris curriculum to educate students in grades 4-12 about the sources and impacts of marine debris and to promote behavior change through hands-on activities involving teachers, students, and their families.
Trash along a muddy riverbed with concrete walls.
WILDCOAST reduced ocean-bound single-use plastic waste and other debris by capturing trash in the Tijuana River and through a city-wide campaign to raise awareness, improve infrastructure, and help the region transition away from single-use plastics.
Volunteers with orange buckets walking up a dirt road past a pile of old tires.
In the Tijuana River Valley, the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association and Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve are repurposing and upcycling debris items to prevent and remove marine debris from the Tijuana River watershed and Pacific Ocean.
Plastic fragments mixed with driftwood on a lake shoreline.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, with help from an advisory team, is developing a regional prevention and messaging campaign that addresses a plastic debris item of concern in the region.
A Seabin cleanup device installed in a lake marina.
The Council of the Great Lakes Region is working to prevent and reduce plastic debris by expanding the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup program and launching a new binational Great Lakes Circular Economy Partnership to help the Great Lakes create a circular economy.
Wildlife staff removing marine debris along the shore of the North Slope Borough of Alaska.
The North Slope Borough will work with eight local communities to educate students and residents about marine debris and single-use plastics by encouraging the use of alternatives and supporting community-led beach cleanups.
Cleanup volunteers removing debris on a beach.
The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island is working to transform attitudes and behaviors around the use and disposal of plastic packing bands on St. Paul Island and within the commercial fishing and packaging industries in the Bering Sea region.
Single-use cups, containers, and other debris along the edge of Pala Lagoon.
Arizona State University is engaging American Samoa Community College students in the identification and selection of alternatives to single-use plastic food containers in collaboration with the community and businesses of Nu’uuli and Pago Pago.
Trash piled in an orange kayak that was collected from a river cleanup.

Mobile Baykeeper is unifying 178 businesses in Mobile, Alabama behind a single campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastics while encouraging consumers to eat, stay, and shop at local businesses.

Two penguins eating fish from a mug.
Shedd Aquarium will work with restaurants and the food service industry to make a measurable reduction in single-use plastics in Chicago communities.
Piles of water bottles removed from the ocean.
Hawaii State Parks will be installing 19 water bottle filling stations. Coupled with outreach efforts and volunteer opportunities, this project aims to change park visitors’ behaviors and prevent water bottles from potentially becoming marine debris.
Blue crabs are caught in a derelict crab trap.
The Fishing for Energy partnership supports four new fishing gear innovation projects to reduce gear loss and impacts.

Completed Prevention Projects - Archives


A marine debris removal dive team on the beach, preparing to enter the ocean.

The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (Hawai‘i Sea Grant) is collaborating with Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response to support the growth of their marine debris removal and education efforts. 

Workshop participants at a table pouring containers of water through a filter that traps debris in the water.

Wisconsin Sea Grant is using the power of storytelling and performance to engage, educate, and inspire performing artists, students, and community members to be committed stewards of Lake Michigan.


Reusable takeout containers on a counter.

Through the Full Cycle Reusable Takeout Container Program, Zero Waste O‘ahu is using a hands-on approach to reduce marine debris by minimizing the use of single-use plastic takeout containers.

A pile of different single-use plastic bottles.

Zero Waste Washington is working with student groups to conduct community-­based education and engagement around litter that impacts the Duwamish River and nearby Puget Sound.

A forest stream littered with plastic debris.

George Mason University and community partners will lead a project to inspire a reduction in single-use plastic water bottle use behavior of students at two high schools in Prince William County, Virginia.

A green compost bin next to a red waste bin and a yellow recycle bin.

One Cool Earth’s Earth Genius Program is working with public school administrators, teachers, and students to implement a marine debris education program in San Luis Obispo schools.

A student collecting debris on a rocky shore.

Eckerd College and the University of North Florida will foster long-term behavior change among undergraduate students to reduce single-use plastic consumption.

Hands holding out marine debris collected from a lake shoreline.

The Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative are leading "Food for Thought," a project engaging 500 youth in grades 3-12 in Northeast Michigan to reduce waste produced in school lunchrooms.

A takeout container left on the roadside. Salem Sound Coastwatch is working with high school interns to develop effective community-based social marketing messages and launch a “CoastSmart” restaurant campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastics.
A pile of vessel materials collected for processing. The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association Foundation is working to expand a successful vessel recycling program in Rhode Island to Washington, New England, and other interested locations.


Several shotgun wads, made of plastic, lay on the sand. This project turned six years of marine debris shoreline monitoring data by Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary into action by implementing a behavior change campaign for waterfowl hunters in the greater San Francisco Bay Area to help reduce the amount of shotgun wads entering waterways.
Two students sit at a table with rubber gloves on and holding tweezers to pick up a dead fish. California Sea Grant improved the understanding of urban neighborhood trash sources and provided experiential learning opportunities to middle school students in an underserved San Diego community.


Deflated balloons on a beach.

The Coastal States Stewardship Foundation, on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, will reduce the intentional release of balloons at celebratory, memorial and other events through the implementation of the Joyful Send-off community based social marketing campaign.

Students in a classroom.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation is expanding its current marine debris focused education programming to engage secondary students in Prince George’s County, Maryland around the issue of marine debris and litter prevention in their schools and communities.

Students on beach on Alaska. Led by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, schools and businesses across the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska initiated zero waste and green initiatives, coupled with marine debris education.
Two women holding stuffed turtles

The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) MarineQuest is educating students on ways they can prevent and reduce marine debris through hands-on lessons focused on sea turtles.

Milk jugs holding collected cigarette butts. Surfrider Foundation San Francisco addressed the critical problem of cigarette butt litter entering the San Francisco Bay, nearby National Parks, and National Marine Sanctuaries through their “Hold on to Your Butt” program.
Napkin bin with sign about plastic free gulf coast. Plastic Free Gulf Coast is focused on reducing the use of single-use plastics, polystyrene, and plastic-lined food/beverage containers within the five gulf states through outreach, education, and providing single-use plastic alternatives to restaurants and consumers.
A group of students on a beach. Eckerd College will strive to reduce consumption of single-use plastics across campus by educating students on marine debris, providing access to alternatives to common debris items, and working with the college administration to institute campus-wide prevention and reduction initiatives.
A child picks up a glass straw. Surfrider Foundation and its partners are working with the public, school students, businesses, and the Oregon State legislature to reduce consumption of single-use plastic in Oregon.
Poster that says "Skip the Straw".

This project is developing marine debris messaging and outreach activities targeted to tourists visiting South Bass Island, Ohio.

A pile of sandy cigarette butts. Researchers at Keene State College and the University of New Haven are using multimedia text messaging to deliver persuasive, positive, humorous messages focused on proper cigarette butt disposal to college students living near National Estuary Programs across the US.


Students sorting trash. The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies worked to build awareness of marine debris through field experiences and zero waste campaigns at local schools and businesses.
A group of students with trash they collected. The University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant worked with teachers from Glynn Middle School in Brunswick, GA, which engaged middle school students in finding ways to reduce and prevent marine debris.
A cleanup group posing in front of a beach. Sea Education Association worked to reduce the use of single-use plastic items which engaged students in lessons on marine debris, social science research, and the creation of a local campaign to educate the community and promote behavior change.
Kids picking up debris on a NYC beach. Hudson River Community Sailing empowered NYC high school students in their Sail Academy afterschool program to become stewards of the Hudson Estuary through marine debris collection, prevention, and outreach.
A group of people in a room. The University of the Virgin Islands worked to reduce land-based sources of marine debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands through a targeted ridge-to-reef and watershed educational and outreach program.
One Cool Earth staff lead students through a campus waste audit. One Cool Earth partnered with 17 schools in Paso Robles and Atascadero, California, to implement school litter and waste reduction programs.
Students cleaning up debris on a beach. The School District of the City of Erie lead a district-wide education and outreach effort with students, teachers, and the community that reduced land-based marine debris by combining curriculum with stewardship.
A watercolor painting of plastic bottles on store shelves filled with water and fish. A hand is holding a bottle filled with polluted liquid and a fish. Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs implemented a new Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition which challenged teens to design and implement a project that reduces or prevents marine debris.
Trash on the sidewalk. Trash Free Maryland launched a multi-year social marketing campaign to reduce land-based litter in Baltimore City.
Someone holding a lot of littered cigarettes. Pacific Whale Foundation launched a public awareness campaign to inform, educate, and involve the public in marine debris awareness and policy focused on tobacco-free beaches in Maui, Hawaii.
A group of students on a pier. Ship Island Excursions worked to provide marine debris education and outreach to coastal Mississippi students as well as passengers on the Ship Island ferry.
Graphic of a turtle biting a bottle, then a photo of a bottle with turtle bites taken out, Sea Turtle, Inc. raised awareness of the effects of marine debris on endangered sea turtles in the lower Laguna Madre and Gulf of Mexico by creating permanent, bilingual marine debris education displays and engaging the community in cleanups.


A pile of derelict crab traps. (Photo Credit: G. Bradt, NH Sea Grant) The National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi worked to assess the transferability of innovative methods for addressing derelict fishing gear and to identify opportunities to prevent gear loss due to vessel interactions.
Derelict nets in a pile. The BoatU.S. Foundation prevented derelict fishing gear by educating recreational boaters about strategies to reduce vessel interactions with active fishing gear.
A side-scan sonar image on the left and a photo of derelict lobster pots on the right. Through the Fishing for Energy program, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries used side-scan sonar to address challenges associated with identifying derelict lobster pots.
A pile of derelict lobster pots. Through the Fishing for Energy program, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries worked to develop a series of videos to educate recreational pot fishers about practices that can help prevent gear loss.
Students on a beach with bags of collected debris and a student on a boat with a surface water sample. The Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation worked to implement a multifaceted STEM education program focusing on ocean literacy and marine debris in the Gulf of Maine.
A group of students on a beach. The University of Hartford worked to develop an open source, replicable, college-level service learning course to improve knowledge, lead outreach, inform policy, and inspire change on the issue of marine debris.
An illustrated image of a crab in a crab pot with the words "keep your pots, catch more crab!". The Northwest Straits Foundation worked to prevent derelict fishing gear in the Puget Sound through education and outreach to tribal, commercial, and recreational fishermen and crabbers.
Community volunteers cleaning up a beach. The Mālama Learning Center tackled marine debris through community outreach in Leeward (West) Oahu.
A group of students with monitoring equipment on a beach. EarthTeam educated and trained high school students to lead “Zero Litter Campaigns” in their schools and communities, aimed to prevent land-based litter from becoming marine debris.
An image of a meal in disposable packaging and then the same meal in reusable containers. Clean Water Fund educated the take-out food industry and its customers about the marine debris prevention benefits and cost savings associated with reducing food and beverage packaging.
Students sit on the floor in discussion with the inflatable whale classroom in the background. The University of North Carolina Wilmington educated elementary and middle school students about marine debris through hands-on lessons in an inflatable whale classroom.
A citizen scientists collects water samples. Florida Sea Grant created a network of citizen scientists across Florida to study microplastics and lead education and outreach events.
A derelict crab pot with crabs caught inside and floats to rig a pot. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and the Fishing for Energy partners teamed up to prevent derelict crab trap generation due to recreational boat strikes.
Students picking up debris from a beach. Nature’s Academy engaged fifth grade students in Manatee County, Florida in a hands-on educational program that increased knowledge and fostered behavior change to prevent marine debris.
A graduate student with UTRGV's Coastal Studies Lab presents a marine debris display. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley started an innovative education and outreach program to prevent marine debris from entering the South Texas coastal zone and the Gulf of Mexico.
Volunteers clean up a beach and pose next to the boat they built from marine debris at the Great Lake Erie Boat Float in 2014 and 2015. The City of Cleveland and the NOAA Marine Debris Program identified barriers to the reduction and proper disposal of plastic grocery bags, water bottles, and cigar tips— three common types of marine debris found on Cleveland area beaches.
A photo of a "Rig It Right" kit and a kit being used to rig a crab pot. Rutgers University and the NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered for the WeCrab project to educate and train recreational crabbers, teachers, students, and coastal users to prevent derelict fishing gear and other debris in New Jersey.
Community volunteers clean up a local shoreline. (Photo Credit: National Aquarium) The National Aquarium partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to create a network of community leaders to initiate and lead marine debris prevention efforts and clean up debris near Baltimore.


Washed Ashore art project made with marine debris. (Photo credit: Washed Ashore Project) The Washed Ashore Project partnered with NOAA Marine Debris Program to bring new art and science curriculum to students and teachers.
Salem Sound Coastwatch Cleanup.

The Salem Sound Coastwatch partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to focus on urban neighborhoods in Salem, Massachusetts to raise awareness and change local trash disposal behaviors.

Children learn about marine debris at the Santa Barbara museum.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History educated students on how they can prevent trash from reaching the ocean.

Trash on the Potomac River.

Alice Ferguson Foundation educated teenage litterers in the Potomac River watershed.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Feiro Marine Life Center educated students and residents from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula about marine debris impacts.
Juvenile Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle - Ingested balloon ribbon(Photo Credit: Witherington FWC)

Virginia DEQ used social marketing to mitigate the impacts of balloon marine debris.

 HWF pilots new marine debris curriculum (Photo Credit: HWF).

Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund engaged the keiki (children) of Hawai‘i to learn about marine debris impacts and forge creative solutions.

Marine debris stranded on Ballenas Beach

Protectores de Cuencas launched Think Before You Drop It, a social marketing campaign to reduce litter on beaches in Puerto Rico.

Current Collections, A Community's Coastal Debris Sculpture.

University of South Florida engaged local youth and tourists by targeting shoreline and beach litter in Florida.

A ghost net is pulled onto a boat in Lake Superior.

University of Wisconsin Sea Grant educated fishers about ghost nets in Lake Superior.


Lobster trap-yard.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered to use data to inform fishing choices.

Talking Trash and Taking Action.

Ocean Conservancy instilled an environmental ethic in youth and corporate employees in an effort to end marine debris.

New Bedford & YCC observe a penguin at Mystic Aquarium.

Mystic Aquarium and the NOAA Marine Debris Program worked with teens to educate and inspire their peers.

GA students marine debris survey and cleanup.

University of Georgia Marine Extension Service partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to use student marine debris surveys to encourage environmental stewardship.

Kids are standing and hitting a ball in a crowd.

Monterey Bay Aquarium worked with California teachers to add marine debris lessons to their classrooms.

Two teachers sort through a bin of marine debris in a lab.

NOAA and Oregon State University engaged students on marine debris using an integrated curriculum.

Colorful bits of plastic from Kehoe Beach in California.

Anchorage Museum educated the public with a marine debris exhibit called GYRE: The Plastic Ocean.

Brown pelicans float in their exhibit pool.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is home to Wendy and Tinkerbell, two brown pelicans found entangled in fishing line in Florida.

Last updated Thu, 03/21/2024 - 02:24 pm EDT