Clean Ocean Action

Defining Marine Debris

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Coast Guard define marine debris as "Marine debris is any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes." 

 For more on the NOAA Marine Debris Program, visit:


COA works with federal, state, and local elected officials, businesses, and environmental groups to ensure that debris is cleaned up wherever it washes ashore and that pollution, dumping, and littering laws are enforced so that our beaches and oceans become entirely trash-free.


Join us for our annual Beach Sweeps, where COA volunteers and the general public head down to over 70 New Jersey Beaches to remove trash and advocate for a debris-free coastline!


For examples of beach debris, click on these photos from a trash wash-up a few years ago:

All photos taken in Normandy Beach by Emily Hackett
The whitish-gray clumps are "sewage cakes" or "grease balls," which are masses of soap, oil, grease, and other waste that builds up in combined sewer overflow (CSO) pipes and washes out during rain events. These clumps, which resemble dirty styrofoam, are contaminated with bacteria and should not be touched.

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