NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!


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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)


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Addressing Marine Debris in the Pacific Northwest: Harnessing the Power of Art

Like the rest of the country, the Pacific Northwest is unfortunately not immune to the impacts of marine debris. Luckily, there are many efforts in this region to address the marine debris issue, one of which focuses on the power of art.

Washed Ashore, an organization based in Oregon, works to prevent marine debris by raising awareness through art. After collecting debris on beaches and then cleaning and sorting it by color, the Washed Ashore group creates large and intricate sculptures made exclusively of marine debris. By building and displaying these sculptures, which mostly feature animals impacted by debris, this project aims to reach a broad audience to raise awareness of our connection to the debris issue and to inspire changes in our habits as consumers. Many of these sculptures now travel around the country as part of traveling exhibits, reaching broad audiences throughout the nation.

In 2014, Washed Ashore partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to expand these efforts to achieve their ultimate goal of influencing behavior change. With support from a Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach grant, they worked to distribute educational materials at exhibit locations and develop a curriculum associated with their marine debris prevention through art model. Educator trainings helped to bring these activities and this message to classroom students.

The Washed Ashore Integrated Arts Marine Debris Curriculum was just recently released and works to educate students about marine debris, plastic use in our society, and how to prevent marine debris both individually and as a community. To view and download this marine debris curriculum, visit Washed Ashore’s website.

Keep your eye out this week for more in the Pacific Northwest!


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April Showers Bring… Marine Debris

Graphic of rain washing debris from a city to the sea.

April can bring more than just showers. Those rains can lead to an increased amount of marine debris. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

You’re likely familiar with the phrase “April showers bring May flowers.” April is often associated with rainy and wet weather, but unfortunately it doesn’t just bring flowers, it also brings marine debris. With rains and melting snow and ice, trash that has found its way to our streets, storm drains, shorelines, etc. is flushed out into our ocean, Great Lakes, and waterways. Some of this trash may have even been trapped within the snow for months before being swept away with melting runoff.

So what do we do about this springtime debris? We can work to pick up this trash before April showers have a chance to wash it into our nearby waters! If you haven’t already, subscribe to our e-newsletter, which lists cleanup events happening around the country each month. Earth Day is coming up, and with it, many cleanup opportunities (keep an eye on our blog for more soon)! If you can’t find a cleanup near you, start one yourself! Gather some friends and clean up your community (remember, safety first!). Most importantly, we can all help to prevent more debris from finding its way into our environment. Spread the word about this problem and remember the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle!) every day!


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Congratulations to Our 2017 Art Contest Winners!

It’s that time of year—time to announce the winners of the NOAA Marine Debris Program Annual Art Contest! We had hundreds of impressive entries this year and although we wish we could showcase them all, we are excited to share this year’s winners with you:

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The NOAA Marine Debris Program holds this annual art contest to reach K-8 students and help raise awareness about marine debris, one of the most significant problems our ocean faces today. The resulting calendar, featuring the winning artwork, will help to remind us every day how important it is for us to be responsible stewards of the ocean. This year’s winners will be featured in our 2018 calendar, available later this year.

Thank you to all the students and schools that participated in this year’s contest, and congratulations to all of our winners!


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It’s St. Patrick’s Day, So Keep Our Ocean Clean and Go Green!

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and let the sea of green that comes with this holiday remind you to “go green” today and every day! There are lots of ways we can all make our lives a little greener. How could you make your life more environmentally-friendly? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Remember your 3R’s. One of the easiest ways to “go green” is to follow the 3R’s every day and reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible!

Spread the word. Let others know about issues like marine debris and how they can help. A lot of people are unaware of these issues and how their actions can affect our environment. Get your friends and family in on the action and go green together!

Join a cleanup. If you’d like to take a more active role, join a cleanup in your area! Our monthly e-newsletter lists cleanup events around the country each month. Can’t find one near you that works with your schedule? Start one yourself! Gather some friends and pick up debris in your neighborhood or at a nearby stream, river, or shoreline (please remember, safety first!).

Skip the garbage can during spring cleaning. Spring is starting to show itself and with that often comes spring cleaning. Skip the “out with the old, in with the new” mindset and reuse some of those old items rather than tossing them. Donate those old clothes when you’re cleaning out your closet, reuse them as rags, or even convert them into something new!

Keep these in mind as you work to keep our ocean clean and go green for St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the NOAA Marine Debris Program

A child's drawing of a sea turtle versus a sea turtle filled with marine debris.

Keep our ocean clean and go green! (2013 Art Contest Winner: Aleena F., Grade 5, Texas)


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Marine Debris in the Pacific Islands

Picture of Mark Manuel.Meet Mark Manuel, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s (MDP’s) Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator! Mark is a Hawaii native, and received his B.S. in Marine Science and M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Before joining the MDP, Mark spent six years with the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Coral Reef Ecosystem Program. He now works in Honolulu, where he oversees marine debris removal and research projects, the Hawai‘i Nets-to-Energy program, and the NOAA Observer Program at-sea marine debris encounter reports. Mark also works with the Consulate of Japan to confirm tsunami marine debris, is part of numerous emergency response networks, and communicates with the U.S. Coast Guard and state agencies to address Abandoned and Derelict Vessels. Reach out to Mark at mark.manuel@noaa.gov!

Picture of Grace Chon.Meet Grace Chon, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Pacific Islands Assistant Regional Coordinator! Grace was born and raised in Maryland and received her B.S. in Biology at the University of Maryland, College Park. After graduating and living in Venezuela for a year, she headed to Hawai’i Pacific University, where she earned her M.S. in Marine Science. As the Assistant Regional Coordinator, Grace now works in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she focuses on marine debris prevention projects, Hawai’i Marine Debris Action Plan activities, regional outreach efforts, and coordination in the territories. Reach out to Grace at grace.chon@noaa.gov!

 

The Pacific Islands are full of sun, sand, and unfortunately… marine debris. Like many other coastal areas, the Pacific Islands are not immune to the impacts of marine debris. Due to the Pacific Islands’ position in the Pacific Ocean and in relation to the North Pacific Gyre and ocean currents, they are often inundated with debris from both local and far-off sources. Luckily, there are many great efforts underway to address and prevent marine debris in this area. Check out a couple newly-established projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program:

Preventing marine debris is the ultimate solution to the problem, so Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) is working to do just that! They’ve launched a public awareness campaign focused on tobacco-free beaches in Maui, Hawaii. To get the word out, they’re creating public service announcements, developing handouts and outreach materials, and giving presentations. PWF is also hosting an art contest to promote marine debris outreach and education. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

Unfortunately, there’s enough marine debris out there that we also must work on removing it. To help clean our shores, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund is leading an effort to remove as much debris as possible from over 200 miles of coastline on four different islands in Hawaii! Engaging hundreds of volunteers, they aim to remove approximately 55 metric tons (about 120,000 pounds) of marine debris! For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

A group of people on a beach.

Volunteers at Kamilo Point participated in the International Coastal Cleanup event in Sept 2016 and helped to remove 1.71 metric tons (3,765 pounds) of marine debris from a 1km stretch of coastline on Hawai‘i Island. (Photo Credit: Dr. Drew Kapp, HWF)

There are lots of cool things going on in the Pacific Islands! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Pacific Islands and throughout the country!


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There’s a New Art Contest in Maui, So Do Your Part and Make Some Art!

Through a project supported by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention through Education and Outreach grant, the Pacific Whale Foundation is launching a Tidal Trash Treasures Art Contest in Maui, Hawaii! Applicants must create artwork made from marine debris that they collected during a cleanup and must reflect the theme “healthy oceans, healthy marine life.”

For more information on this exciting competition, please see the flyer below. Entries are due Friday, February 17th with an entry “fee” of 25 littered cigarette butts removed from a beach, park, or public area.

Tidal Trash Treasures Art Contest Flyer.

Tidal Trash Treasures Art Contest Flyer. (Credit: Pacific Whale Foundation)