Salish Synergy: Cross-Border Debris Removal and Recycling

A person with gloves at a table covered in collected marine debris.

Through the Salish Synergy project, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and partners are detecting and removing medium- to large-scale marine debris, including derelict fishing gear, along Washington's outer coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Type of Project: North America Marine Debris Prevention and Removal

Region: Pacific Northwest

Project Dates: September 2021 - August 2023

Who is involved?
The NOAA Marine Debris Program is partnering with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Washington CoastSavers, and Net Your Problem to leverage existing volunteer beach cleanup efforts by additional partners including the Hoh, Makah, Quileute, and Quinault Tribes, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Ocean Legacy Foundation (located in British Columbia), Washington Sea Grant, Western Washington University, and Surfrider Foundation to bolster marine debris removal efforts.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Salish Sea is a unique region with marine resources shared by communities across the Canadian-American border. The region is also densely populated as compared to the rest of the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. Remote coastlines and nearby urban areas combine to create significant local sources, as well as long-distance, marine debris issues. 

The Salish Synergy project is conducting six cleanup events on the outer coast beaches of Washington State (including those along the Strait of Juan de Fuca) over two years. Partners are also carrying out a focused effort to document a baseline amount of marine debris in Grayland, Washington, and removing yellow aquaculture rope, a commonly littered item, ahead of collaborative efforts with the shellfish industry to address this issue. Participants are disposing of the removed debris according to a modified version of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s waste hierarchy, prioritizing mechanical recycling to keep plastic in the supply chain. Debris that cannot be mechanically recycled is being used for energy recovery by converting waste to alternative fuels. 

CoastSavers’ beach cleanups typically recover between 50,000-100,000 pounds of debris each year. By partnering with the Ocean Legacy Foundation, a Canadian organization that has commercialized a mechanical recycling process for yellow rope and other maritime waste, and Net Your Problem, a Washington state company that accepts beach debris as an input to their mixed plastics recycling, this project is introducing innovative disposal methods to an already proven program.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.