NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog Has Moved!

We are excited to announce that NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog has now moved!

Check out our new and improved blogging platform at!

Our new blog has all the features you know and love, with improved integration into our website so that all the marine debris information you need is at your fingertips! If you’ve already subscribed to our WordPress blog with your email address, don’t worry, you’ll continue to get email notifications of new blog posts. If you haven’t yet subscribed and would like to receive notifications, you can sign up on our new blog home page.

We are excited to continue to share marine debris information, inspiring stories, and news to keep you informed about the world of marine debris. Every single one of us has a part to play in solving this preventable problem and being informed is the first step. Thank you for your efforts and your enthusiasm to help rid our ocean and Great Lakes of marine debris.

Continue to follow NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog at our new address.

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Help Protect Endangered Species by Reducing Marine Debris

Marine debris impacts a variety of wildlife that rely on the ocean and Great Lakes for food and/or habitat. Unfortunately, this includes many animals that are protected under the Endangered Species Act, including species of seals, turtles, whales, and even corals. Even if these endangered species are located within a protected area or far from people, they can still be impacted by this human-created problem, which travels the world’s ocean with the currents. For example, the Papahānuamokuākea Marine National Monument provides one of the last remaining refuges for the Hawaiian monk seal. Although it is extremely remote and far from large human populations, it is still heavily impacted by marine debris, which finds its way to the shores of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands due to their location in relation to the currents of the Pacific Ocean.

Animals, including endangered species like the Hawaiian monk seal, can be impacted by debris in a variety of ways. They can become entangled in items like derelict fishing nets, or mistake trash for food and ingest it. All seven species of sea turtles have been found to eat marine debris—especially plastic bags, which can look a lot like jellyfish, sea turtles’ favorite snack. Heavy fishing gear and other debris can also damage or smother corals and important habitats.

Luckily, we can help protect endangered and threatened species by paying more attention to how we might be contributing to this problem. Marine debris is entirely caused by humans, but that means that people have the power to solve the problem, too! For instance, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, NOAA crews have worked to remove 935 tons of marine debris since 1996! We can all help by following the “3Rs” to reduce the amount of single-use items we use, reuse items when possible, and recycle when we can. Spread the word to others so that they can help, too! Preventing marine debris is the ultimate solution to the problem, but to help address the stuff that’s already out there, join a cleanup near you or start one yourself using the Marine Debris Tracker app! We can all be a part of the solution to marine debris and part of the effort to protect our endangered and threatened species.

Happy Endangered Species Day!

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Show Mother Earth Some Love on Mother’s Day

Sunday is Mother’s Day and while you’re celebrating the mothers in your life, take some time to think about Mother Earth, too! There are lots of things we can do every day to show Mother Earth some love, and she deserves it considering all she does for us! One of the simplest and easiest ways to love our Earth is to learn what can be recycled in your area and follow that up by recycling those items properly. Step it up a notch by reusing those items instead—use that plastic water bottle again and again or repurpose it into something completely different, like a bird feeder or flower pot! Step up your Mother’s Day gift-giving game for our Mother Earth even more by reducing your use of or refusing items you don’t need. When you’re at a restaurant for Mother’s Day brunch, ask for your water without a straw. Each little effort goes a long way, so spread the word to your family and friends so they can get in on the action, too! Want to be a Mother’s Day gift-giving champion? Join a cleanup in your area to help pick up debris! Mother Earth will love it. There are always lots of events going on (subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter for a list of cleanups around the country). If you can’t find one close by, start your own using the Marine Debris Tracker App! No gift is too small to show some appreciation for our Mother Earth on Mother’s Day and every day.

A graphic of the Earth, made up of marine debris.

Show Mother Earth some love this Mother’s Day. (Credit: NOAA)

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Spring Cleaning Your Home and Community

Spring has finally sprung throughout much of the country and for many, that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. It’s a great feeling to get rid of some of your extra stuff, but make sure you think about the environment while you’re clearing some extra storage space. “Out with the old, in with the new” isn’t always the rule of thumb. Avoid adding that old stuff to the waste stream by thinking about how it could be repurposed. Have some old clothes? Hold on to them and use them as dust cloths or rags, which are always handy around the house. There are endless ideas online for how to reuse or repurpose lots of items. Or, donate them instead of ditching them in the garbage can. Have some things that simply must be tossed? Make sure to recycle when you can.

Not only is this the perfect time of year to clean your closet and your house, but it’s also a great time to get your spring cleaning on and clean up your community. If you started getting in the groove during some Earth Day cleanups, keep it up! If you missed out, it’s not too late to get involved! Join a cleanup in your area or start one yourself using the Marine Debris Tracker App! If you haven’t already, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter for a list of cleanups around the country each month!

Enjoy that spring weather and get cleaning!

A person putting a collected plastic bottle into a bag of other debris.

Clean up your community during your spring cleaning efforts this year! (Photo Credit: NOAA)

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Wastewater Treatment Plants and Marine Debris

By: Matthew Coomer, Intern with the NOAA Marine Debris Program

You may not think about wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) very often, but you use them every day. In fact, they are essential to protecting our health and the environment; WWTPs change our sewage into clean water that can safely re-enter rivers and the ocean. These facilities are complex, but to simplify, they filter solid material out of wastewater, allow microorganisms to feed on the organic matter that’s left behind, and then kill any dangerous bacteria. Whenever you use water at home or in your community, you use your local WWTP. Unfortunately, while these treatment plants are very good at their job, they may also be point sources of a persistent type of marine debris— microplastics.

When most WWTPs were designed, most people weren’t thinking about potential environmental impacts from plastic or how popular it would become. In many ways, treatment plants still handle plastic debris really well. When large pieces of plastic (like food wrappers) enter the system, they are separated for proper disposal like other solids. Studies show that modern plants capture over 99% of microplastics, too. Sadly, even that remaining 1% is a big problem. WWTPs work through millions of liters of wastewater every day, so a few plastic particles per liter can add up to billions released over time. Unfortunately, creating new filters and upgrading old systems to capture all these particles can be very complicated. Instead, we can all work to prevent plastics from going to WWTPs in the first place.

Plastic microbeads are added to many personal care items like soaps, toothpastes, and body washes. These beads act as an exfoliant and are designed to wash down the drain. “Out of sight, out of mind” only flows as far as the treatment plant, though. Several studies have found that most microplastics entering WWTPs are from consumer products, so reducing our use at home matters. Thankfully, Congress gave us a hand when it passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which will stop the production of microbead-containing rinse-off cosmetics this July and ban their sale next year. Until then, look to see if that scrubbing product in your bathroom contains plastic microbeads and, if so, use a different one next time. When everyone makes this small change, it could have a huge, positive impact. Your WWTP will appreciate the help in keeping our waters clean, healthy, and debris free.

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Don’t Forget to Get Involved This Earth Day!

Earth Day is tomorrow and there is still plenty of time to figure out how you’d like to get involved and celebrate! There are many things we can all do in our everyday lives to help our planet and Earth Day is a great time to start those habits. Earth Day is also a good time to make the extra effort to get involved in a cleanup. You can get outside to enjoy the nice spring weather and have a good time with friends as you also work to pick up debris and clean our environment. Not sure where to find a cleanup near you? Check out this list of cleanups throughout the country! There have been some recent additions to the list, so take another look if you’ve seen it already.

One event to get involved in is with NOAA Marine Debris Program partner, Stockton University, whom is hosting a Volunteer Processing and Community Day in New Jersey. This event is part of their Ghost Pot Prevention and Removal Project, and will involve volunteers processing about 500 derelict crab pots that have been recovered over the last year! This isn’t just a chance to help clean our Earth, but also to get involved in important data collection as part of one of the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s funded projects. This is just one of countless opportunities around the country to get involved in, so find the right one for you or start your own using the Marine Debris Tracker App, and go celebrate our Earth this Earth Day!

A group of people hauling marine debris off a beach.

Get involved and join a cleanup this Earth Day! (Photo Credit: Student Conservation Association)

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Get Involved on Earth Day and Beyond!

By: Amanda Laverty, Knauss Fellow with the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Earth Day is just around the corner and it’s the perfect time to get involved and support efforts working toward a clean environment and healthy planet. We want to remind ourselves to make these efforts throughout the year, so Earth Day is a great time to start. This year, let’s challenge ourselves as consumers to make better daily choices so that we can collectively lessen our impact on the planet! It only takes a few consistent choices to develop new sustainable and earth-friendly habits. Here are a few easy and effective ways you can choose to reduce your daily impact and make a world of difference:

  1. Bring a bag. Remember to bring reusable bags to the grocery store or for any other shopping activities to reduce consumption of disposable bags.
  2. Invest in a reusable water bottle. Acquiring a reusable water bottle would not only greatly reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use, but it would also save you money in the long run! If you’re concerned about the quality of your tap water, consider using a water filter.
  3. Bring your own reusable cup. Think about how many disposable cups are used every day in just your local coffee shop. Bringing a mug for your morning coffee can reduce the amount of waste you produce annually. Imagine how much waste we could reduce if we all made this simple daily change!
  4. Refuse single-use items. Take note on how often you rely on single-use items and choose to replace them with more sustainable versions. Refusing plastic straws and disposable cutlery when you go out and bringing your own containers for leftovers are a few ways you can start today.
  5. Avoid products with microbeads. Facial scrubs and beauty products containing plastic microbeads were banned in the United States in 2015, but won’t be fully phased out until 2019. Read the labels when purchasing products and opt for ones that contain natural scrubbing ingredients like salt or sugar.
  6. Shop in bulk. Consider the product-to-packaging ratio when purchasing items and choose larger containers instead of multiple smaller ones. When you have the option, also consider purchasing package-free foods and household goods.
  7. Make sure your waste goes to the right place. Do your best to ensure that the waste you dispose of ends up where it should. Recycle the materials that are recyclable in your area and make sure to reduce the likelihood of your garbage ending up in the environment by keeping a lid on your trash can when it’s outside.
  8. Compost. Composting at home reduces the volume of garbage sent to landfills and reduces the chance of some products becoming marine debris.

These are just a few ways that we can apply our Earth Day intentions to our everyday lives. By doing our part to work toward a sustainable and debris-free planet, we’ll also be providing others with inspiration and a good example to follow. As individuals we have the potential to make a big difference and together we can change the world.

A child's drawing of a clean versus dirty beach.

Get involved this Earth Day! Remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle so you don’t end up Regretting your actions. (Credit: 2012 art contest winner Kekoa T., Grade 4, Hawaii)