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Water: Marine Debris

Prevention, Control, and Reduction: Marine Debris Removal

Marine Debris Removal

What Can You Do?
You can help remove marine debris from our beaches, whether you pick up trash on your own or attend an event. Find out more on the What You Can Do site.
Adopt Your Watershed
Become a steward of your watershed, and remove trash before it becomes marine debris. Learn more at Adopt Your Watershed.

It is important to remove marine debris from the environment as soon as possible to reduce potential impacts. If marine debris is not removed it can collect on shorelines and in water bodies where it ruins aesthetic beauty, causes habitat destruction, creates human health and safety hazards, and injures and kills marine wildlife. Marine debris removal, through cleanups and disaster debris planning, plays a key role in preventing and reducing marine debris in the environment.

Cleanups can prevent marine debris from entering the ocean, and can remove what is already present. Watershed cleanups occur in creeks, streams, or rivers to remove trash before it is carried to the ocean where it becomes marine debris. Beach cleanups remove trash left by beach-goers or marine debris that has washed up on shore. Underwater cleanups, often done by certified divers, remove trash that has already sunk to the sea floor.

EPA supports marine debris removal through watershed, beach, and underwater cleanups. Two examples of cleanups are the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) and the Potomac Watershed Cleanup Exit EPA Disclaimer.

Natural disasters can generate a substantial amount of debris. Actions taken both before and after disaster strikes can limit the number of items that may become marine debris. Development of a disaster debris management plan identifies options for collecting, recycling, and disposing of debris before the disaster occurs. Once a natural disaster occurs, debris removal reduces the amount of material that can be carried to the ocean or left submerged on the ocean floor.


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