California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy: Addressing Marine Debris from Source to Sea

Posted Mon, 06/18/2018 - 11:00

By: Sherry Lippiatt, California Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) and California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) are pleased to announce the 2018 California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy: Addressing Marine Debris from Source to Sea (Strategy). The Strategy identifies a broad range of actions aimed at preventing and reducing marine debris in California, and is the result of a wide range of input from government partners, non-governmental organizations, industry, and academics working to address the issue. The document provides a roadmap for action over the next six years, and is intended to increase collaboration and galvanize support for marine debris projects.

The Strategy prioritizes source reduction Goals and Action Items, and focuses on “turning off the tap” as the most effective tactic to address the marine debris issue. Many of the actions target “common ocean litter items,” or debris items that are most prevalent in or on California’s waterways. Data from the annual Coastal Cleanup Day is presently the most comprehensive debris dataset in California and was used to inform the creation of the Strategy. Currently, this dataset indicates that cigarette butts and food and beverage packaging are the most common debris items found in California. The Strategy is structured around six Goals, five of which are dedicated to land-based litter and one of which is dedicated to ocean-based debris:

Land-based Ocean Litter

  1. Goal 1: Reduce the use of common ocean litter items through mandates and incentives targeting public institutions and businesses.
  2. Goal 2: Reduce the prevalence of common ocean litter items through changes in product production, design, and management.
  3. Goal 3: Improve waste management and interception of litter on land before it enters the ocean.
  4. Goal 4: Conduct and communicate research on existing and emerging issues related to land-based ocean litter.
  5. Goal 5: Generate behavior change by educating and engaging communities and individuals to reduce ocean litter.

Ocean-based Marine Debris

  1. Goal 6: Reduce the sources of ocean-based debris and maximize the efficiency of ocean-based debris cleanup.

The MDP is grateful to all involved in this collective effort. A special “thank you” is owed to California Sea Grant for facilitating the process. The Strategy is now available on our website. The MDP and OPC will coordinate implementation and tracking of progress on the Strategy; if you'd like to receive updates please contact

California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy: Addressing Marine Debris from Source to Sea

Posted Mon, 06/18/2018 - 11:00

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For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

Alan A Avery

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 15:50

Can cigarette butts be made biodegradable? Are you taking tangible actions soon or is this just another study? Can any positive actions be implemented in Florida?

Hello Alan,

Thank you for your questions! Yes, cigarettes can be made biodegradable if they do not include filters. However, there are companies currently researching the use of a degradable “food-starch-based” filter.

As for your second question, this is not a study. The 2018 California Ocean Litter Prevention Strategy brings together organizations across California to carry out specific actions, which will be implemented in order to prevent or reduce ocean litter. 

Positive actions like these can be implemented everywhere, and we can all do something to help! Whether it be reducing the amount of waste you produce, or joining a cleanup near you, anyone can make a difference. In Florida, a similar plan to the California Strategy is already in place, with the aim of reducing the impact of marine debris in the state. You can view the plan here on our website:

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