Over the years of the NOAA Marine Debris Program, there have been many efforts around the country to rid our waters and shores of marine debris, including promoting beneficial behaviors like recycling. As part of our ten-year anniversary celebration, let’s take a look back at some of our recycling efforts throughout the years.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is the federal lead to address marine debris and one of the key areas we focus on is preventing debris in the first place. In this vein, we often refer back to the “3 Rs”— reduce, reuse, recycle. This is an important message for our program— encouraging people to reduce the amount of disposables they use, reuse items when they can, recycle whenever possible, and to generally think about how their actions may contribute to marine debris. It can be very difficult to completely eradicate disposable items from your life, so recycling items so they can be converted into something new is a great way to prevent them from becoming marine debris.
Over the years, we have been involved in many efforts to promote recycling. This includes the Fishing for Energy program which began in 2008, modeled after the Hawaiʻi Nets to Energy effort. Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the MDP, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, and works to provide a cost-free way for fishermen to recycle their gear. This program recycles any metal, and then converts the remaining material into usable energy!
Many of the projects we support work to actively recycle waste materials or perform outreach to encourage others. Back in 2006, the MDP became involved in a project led by the BoatUS Foundation which focused on increasing awareness of marine debris and creating a nationwide network of monofilament (think fishing line) recycling containers. Constructing and installing these recycling bins helped to prevent monofilament line from becoming dangerous marine debris (monofilament line can be especially dangerous for marine animals that can get entangled in it). Instead, it can get a new life by being recycled!
Recycling has been a focus for the MDP and will continue to be a focus in the future. If we can all commit to recycling when possible and to educating ourselves to make sure we’re recycling correctly, then together we can make a big difference!