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Contact Marine Debris Team

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Marine Debris

Marine debris degrades ocean habitats, endangers marine and coastal wildlife, causes navigation hazards, results in economic losses to industry and governments, and threatens human health and safety.  EPA Pacific Southwest (Region 9) is tapping existing programs and resources to advance the prevention, reduction and clean-up of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean.  EPA Pacific Southwest activities build upon specific recommendations of the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee by targeting threats and sources of debris and responding to debris impacts.  EPA is initiating a three-pronged effort to reduce sources of marine debris, prevent trash from entering the oceans, and assess the human and ecosystem impacts and potential for cleanup.

Marine Debris in the North Pacific

Source Reduction

Plastic bags filled to overflowing

Source reduction of commonly littered items such as single-use disposable plastics can play a large role in reducing the amount of marine debris. According to the Ocean Conservancy, six of the top 10 contributors to marine debris are single-use, or disposable, plastic products. They include food and beverage container caps and lids, beverage bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, flatware (i.e., cups, plates, and cutlery), and drinking straws. Known as food service ware, such single-use plastic utensils and containers pose a threat to marine environments because they do not fully break down or decompose.

Source Reduction Toolkit for Institutional Settings

Many plastic food service ware items originate on college and university campuses—in cafeterias, snack rooms, cafés, and eateries with take-out dining options. The Marine Debris and Plastic Source Reduction Toolkit, developed by Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) Exiting EPA (disclaimer) with EPA funding, can be easily implemented by colleges, universities and other institutions around the country to minimize plastic waste and reduce the amount of marine debris polluting the planet's oceans and waterways.

The toolkit identifies four steps to achieving source reduction:

  1. Determining the campus’s plastic footprint with the toolkit’s Footprint Calculator;
  2. Creating a source reduction plan to reduce or eliminate the use of disposable plastic items;
  3. Changing campus procurement practices by identifying less environmentally impactful products; and
  4. Establishing campus-wide source reduction policies.

Download a copy of the Marine Debris & Plastic Source Reduction Toolkit (PDF) (90 pp, 5.5MB)  and the Toolkit Fact Sheet (PDF) (1 pp, 178K) 

Plastic Bags

The California Coastal Commission found that plastic bags comprise 13.5% of shoreline litter; the City of Los Angeles found that plastic bags make up 25% of litter in storm drains.

More about EPA’s position on disposable bags:

Other Source Reduction Resources

Graphic-link to Approaching Zero Trash web page

Approaching Zero Trash

Stakeholders in both the Los Angeles River watershed and San Francisco Bay Area watershed have established timelines to reach a goal of zero trash entering the Pacific Ocean from stormwater runoff.

Learn more about approaching zero trash

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