Trash and Marine Debris

Trash, lost fishing gear, and grocery bags in the water or washed up on levees and beaches are harmful to wildlife and the quality of recreation, and pose serious threats to safety in our waterways. Marine debris can wrap around boat propellers and clog boat intakes, causing costly engine damage and becoming a safety hazard. Some marine debris such as cigarette filters, trash and grocery bags and small plastic pieces look like food to animals. Once ingested, these materials can cause suffocation and/or starvation.

A recent study found an average of 334,271 pieces of plastic per square mile in the North Pacific Central Gyre, which serves as a natural eddy system to concentrate material.1 Results of more than 10 years of volunteer beach cleanup data indicate that 60 to 80 percent of beach debris comes from land-based sources. And debris in the marine environment means hazards for animals and humans. Plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide, including 86 percent of all sea turtle species, 44 percent of all sea bird species, and 43 percent of marine mammal species.2


  • Don’t dump plastics and trash overboard. It is illegal to discharge plastic anywhere in the ocean or in inland waterways.

  • Bring it all back. Properly stash all containers and trash onboard to prevent it from being blown overboard.

  • Designate a permanent onboard trash bin. Use a container with a lid.

  • Help guests understand that on your boat, no trash is thrown overboard.

  • Put empty cans back in your cooler to recycle ashore.

  • Remove product packaging at home to eliminate space-consuming packaging waste onboard.

  • Find ways to reduce the amount of garbage you create while aboard your boat. For example, pack food from home in reusable containers rather than disposable food bags.

  • Take used monofilament fishing line back to recycling bins at your marina or tackle shop, or send it directly to: Berkley Recycling Center, 1900 18th Street, Spirit Lake, IA 51360-1099.

  • Shrink wrap is a low-density polyethylene used to  protect boats during the winter. Shrink wrap is not biodegradable, and can become a disposal problem at landfills. Many marinas offer shrink wrap recycling programs. If your marina does not offer shrink wrap recycling on site, there are companies that for a fee will send you a postage paid bag that can be filled with shrink warp and returned to the company for recycling. For more information visit

  • Cigarette butts are the most common type of litter found washed up on beaches and are not biodegradable. Place extinguished cigarette butts in the trash.

  • Participate in a local marina or beach clean up. Call (800) COAST4U or visit for organized events in your area.

1 Moore, C. J., S. L. Moore, M. K. Leecaster, and S. B. Weisberg, 2001. A comparison of plastic and plankton in the North Pacific Central Gyre. In: Marine Pollution Bulletin 42, 1297-1300.

2 Laist, D. W., 1997. Impacts of marine debris: entanglement of marine life in marine debris including a comprehensive list of species with entanglement and ingestion records. In: Coe, J. M. and D. B. Rogers (Eds.), Marine Debris -- Sources, Impacts and Solutions. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 99-139

turtle caught in discarded monofilament fishing line

Discarded fishing line accounts for many tragic wildlife deaths


Monofilament Fishing Line can entangle and kill wildlife, and cause boat damage. It's NOT biodegradable and can remain in the environment for over 600 years.

Wildlife may suffer from loss of limbs from line entanglement and even death from gangrenous infection, or ingestion of the line. Fishing line discarded in our waterways also fouls boat propellers which are a serious litter problem, especially around boat ramps and fishing areas. Even when we dispose the line in trash bins it still goes to the landfill which creates the same hazards for wildlife, unless it is cut into small pieces. One solution to the problem is to have recycling containers available to boaters and fishermen to properly discard their used line.

The California Division of Boating and Waterways and the California Coastal Commission’s Boating Clean and Green program, the Keep the Delta Clean and the BoatU.S Foundation have placed containers at many locations throughout the State. Please check the list of line recycling container locations that participate in recycling monofilament line, or view the new map below.

If you are not near any of these recycling locations, please mail your used monofilament fishing line to Berkley Recycling Collection Center at 1900 18th street, Spirit Lake, Iowa 51360-1099


fishing station
View Monofilament Fishing Line Stations in a larger map

Is your boating facility interested in helping reducing monofilament in our waterways?

It is easy! Volunteer to build and maintain a monofilament recycling location at a fishing spot near you, such as a boat launch ramp, pier or park. Check the construction guidelines. We can send you the signs and stickers for your station.  For more information about this program, call or email Vivian Matuk at (415) 904-6905;

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