Clean Ocean Action

Non-point Source or "Pointless" Pollution

A storm drain collects litter and debris from the street, delivering it to the nearest waterway.

What is Non-point Source Pollution?

Non-point source or "pointless" pollution is the number one cause of coastal water pollution. Pointless pollution is caused by many sources, including runoff of litter, pet waste, fertilizers, pesticides and sediments, leaky septic systems, and faulty sewage and stormwater systems.


Pointless pollution is harmful to the coastal ecosystem and to public health. It:

  • contaminates drinking water and waterways,
  • closes beaches and shellfish beds,
  • causes algal blooms which can lead to fish kills,
  • contaminates sediments in waterways,
  • adversely affects the life cycles of aquatic organisms,
  • can lead to public health risks and fish consumption advisories for humans, and
  • endangers wildlife through ingestion of and entanglement with litter.

Though people and their everyday habits are often the source of pointless pollution, we can easily become the solution. Clean Ocean Action educates citizens about what can be done to stop pointless pollution and keep New Jersey's waters swim-able, fish-able, and beautiful.

Visible Signs of Non-point Source Pollution

During the 2015 Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps, over 6,375 volunteers picked up 332,003 items - including 34,426 plastic bottle caps. The data collected by volunteers at the Sweeps shows that plastic items, in general, made up 70.78% of the recovered debris. Cigarette filters continue to be among the most prevalent plastic items collected on beaches (volunteers collected 28,041 during the 2015 Beach Sweeps). Cigarette butts tossed in the street or on sidewalks by careless smokers wash directly down storm drains and into waterways. These waterways eventually carry debris downstream, and into the ocean. Daily tides and wave action wash the litter back up onto our beaches.

How can I help?

There are many activities that citizens can participate in to reduce pointless pollution. Visit the Education Programs section of our website for more information on Clean Ocean Action's programs including Storm Drain Stenciling, Beach Sweeps, Group & School Presentations, the Student Summit, and our 10 Tips Series of educational resources.

Clean Ocean Action's comments on the proposed amendments, repeals, and new rules regarding Shellfish Growing Water Classification Rules.


A group of volunteers stencil an anti-littering message on a storm drain.

18 Hartshorne Drive, Suite 2
Highlands, NJ 07732
Voice: (732) 872-0111
FAX: (732) 872-8041

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