Reduce Marine Pollution


Target: John Laird, Secretary of California’s National Resources Agency

Goal: Eliminate costly marine debris on California’s beaches

Beaches that are littered with plastics and other debris are not only visually unattractive but also harmful to wildlife and human health. Yet, marine debris also has a major economic toll according to a recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which found that marine debris accounts for millions of dollars lost to California residents, who incur greater expenses travelling to cleaner beaches farther away.

Conducted as part of NOAA’s new Marine Debris Economics program, this study is the first of its kind to look at how marine debris influences people’s preference in beaches and at what financial cost. Focusing on 31 popular Southern California beaches between July and August 2013, the study identifies marine debris as the strongest influences on people’s choice of beaches. Even more compelling is the breakdown of exactly how much money communities could save by cutting down on litter and cleaning up beaches.

Estimated savings, calculated from public survey information combined with collected data on the beaches being studied, range from $32 million with a 25 percent reduction in marine debris to a staggering $148 million if marine debris were reduced by 100 percent. Included in those costs are any dollars spent on gas money, parking fees, and the intrinsic value of time itself spent on getting to and from a cleaner beach. Given the popularity of Southern California beach culture, a summertime reduction in marine debris even at just some of the 31 beaches, for instance the five with the highest levels, could make for significant savings for communities all along the coast.

By signing the petition below, you can urge California’s government to invest in cleaner beaches for the sake of both ecological health and economic vitality.


Dear Secretary Laird,

I am writing to bring your attention to a recent study by the NOAA on the economic costs of marine debris on California’s beaches. The first of its kind to examine how marine debris influences people’s choice of beaches and the financial cost of their choices, the study illuminates exactly how much communities could save by cleaning up beaches. Reducing marine debris by 25 percent could make for $32 million in savings while the ideal, eliminating 100% of marine debris, could save California residents $148 million.

As marine debris is almost exclusively land-based, the urban litter program this study suggests could be an efficient way to prevent waste from getting to beaches from other waterways. Furthermore, bans on plastic grocery bags and other disposables are catching on throughout the state, and raising awareness of the importance of stopping the flow of plastic pollution into our waterways. Improved waste prevention and beach clean-up programs might be timely follow-up measures to the important step that many counties have taken. I encourage you to consider how cleaner beaches could not only uplift the economy, but enrich the lives of communities all along the coast.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Patrick Pelster via Wikimedia Commons

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