NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Help Track Sandy Debris for Cleanup


By: Ron Ohrel

Marine debris beach cleanup volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Marine debris beach cleanup volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Sandy left behind a swath of damage, hurling building materials, docks and piers, vehicles, and other large debris in the waters and marshes of affected states. Removal of that debris takes great effort but is necessary to maintain navigation routes, ensure safe boating, swimming, and other recreational activities, and protect sensitive ecosystems.

Much debris has been removed, but more remains. NOAA needs assistance in identifying its location, and you can help. All it takes is an Android or iPhone and an interest in cleaning up our waterways!

If you spot large debris items that Sandy left behind, either while participating in organized cleanups or during the course of your normal beach-going activities, please let us know through the Marine Debris Tracker. The information will be used to assist any future planning efforts. (**Editor’s note: Quick point of clarification! Some readers have asked if this means the NOAA Marine Debris Program will come clean up the Sandy debris that is tracked. At this point, no. We’re just asking for help locating it!)

How can you help?

  1. Download the Marine Debris Tracker app (, available on both Android and iPhone platforms.
  2. Use the app to record the location and type of debris you find during organized cleanups or your normal activities. Focus on large materials that cannot be easily removed and that you think could have been caused by the storm. Examples include large pieces of wood or concrete, house siding, abandoned boats, yard items (e.g., grills, lawnmowers), and refrigerators and other appliances.
  3. Including a photo of each item is especially helpful.
    – Android users: Follow the prompt for uploading a photo.
    – iPhone users: Email a photo along with information about the debris item’s location to
  4. Submit your findings by logging into the app and using the user name “sandy” and password “sandy.” 

Do not approach any items that may be dangerous, such as oil or chemical drums, gas cans, or propane tanks. Look for hazard symbols. If you encounter a potentially hazardous item, mark the location, warn others, and take photos. You should then call proper authorities, such as a park ranger or beach manager and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 to report the hazardous material item with as much information as possible. 9-1-1 or other emergency hotlines may not be an appropriate contact for hazardous marine debris unless it poses an immediate danger to human health. Do not touch or handle the item.

Questions about this effort can be directed to Ron Ohrel, Sandy Marine Debris Coordinator: For questions about the Marine Debris Tracker app, please email



Stay tuned for more on the MDP’s on-going Sandy marine debris efforts.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

2 thoughts on “Help Track Sandy Debris for Cleanup

  1. Excellent idea, I hope it gets results. RH

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