Affiliates, Environmental Education, Litter Prevention

From Land to Sea: The Connection Between Land-Based Litter and Marine Debris

June marks World Ocean Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the incredible diversity and vital importance of our world’s oceans. Covering over 70% of the Earth’s surface, oceans are integral to our planet’s health and our own well-being – and we often forget that our actions on land can have profound effects on the ocean. For example, marine debris (litter in the marine environment) is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time and land-based litter is a major contributor to this problem.

When we think of marine debris, images of trash floating at the ocean’s surface or washing up onto the beach may come to mind. But much of this pollution is land-based litter that originated far from the sea. 

How does land-based litter make its way to the ocean? 

  1. In urban areas, rainwater washes over streets, parking lots, and other surfaces, collecting trash and debris. This polluted runoff often flows into storm drains and waterways, eventually leading to the ocean.
  2. Rivers and streams act as conduits, carrying litter from inland areas to coastal regions. Anything discarded in or near these waterways can eventually end up in the ocean.
  3. Wind can blow lightweight litter, such as plastic bags and packaging, from land into the sea. Severe weather events, like hurricanes and storms, can also transport large amounts of debris from coastal and inland areas into the ocean.
  4. Inadequate waste management practices, such as open landfills and insufficient recycling programs, contribute to the leakage of litter into the environment. Once litter is outside, it can easily find its way to the ocean.

Just like on land, when litter becomes marine debris, it poses a threat to marine ecosystems, wildlife and human health. To effectively address the problem, we must tackle land-based litter at its source. Here are some ways YOU can help!

  1. Properly cover your trash and recycling receptacles so trash is less likely to fall or be blown out by wind and weather.
  2. Make use of more sustainable items such as refillable water bottles and reusable grocery bags to cut down on the amount of waste you create.
  3. Participate in local cleanup efforts with your KFB affiliate
  4. Educate others on the connection between land-based litter and marine debris and how they can be part of the solution. 

The health of our oceans is intrinsically linked to our actions on land. Addressing litter is one step in the right direction toward a cleaner and healthier planet. It’s a shared responsibility that requires collective action from individuals, communities, industries, and governments. Together, we can make a difference!


Thank you to our partners at Surfing’s Evolution and Preservation Foundation for sponsoring this message!

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