EPA Awards $214,000 to Reduce Sources of Ocean Pollution

Financing for teacher action projects, reducing fast-food packaging on UC campuses

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded more than $214,000 in grants to the Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to reduce sources of marine debris in partnership with local students, governments and businesses.

The Institute will use a $164,245 grant to implement a study to reduce disposable plastic packaging—a major source of ocean pollution—on the campuses of three California coastal universities.  It will then use the results of the study to develop a model program that can be adopted by other universities and fast-food corporations.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium will use a $50,000 grant to train 100 teachers to teach 7,500 students to lead 40 local community action projects to reduce sources of ocean plastics.

“Reducing waste at the source, rather than just cleaning it up, is key to protecting our coastal waters,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  “These two projects are big steps forward to reducing the amount of trash that ends up in our rivers, oceans, and estuaries.”

The Institute will work to achieve a 40 percent reduction in single-use plastic water bottles and an 80 percent reduction in polystyrene take-out containers at fast-food restaurants, dining facilities and student centers at University of California campuses in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium will train 100 K-12 teachers in California to teach 7,500 students to understand the cause and effect of plastics polluting the ocean, and explore actions to help address the threat posed by marine debris.  In turn, students will lead 40 local community action projects within coastal watersheds.  Results from this project will be disseminated to 300 teachers at an annual teacher open house and via the Aquarium’s website.

Trash targeted by grant work will focus on plastics that enter California waterways and eventually disintegrate and become part of the food chain, harming fish and wildlife.  The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”—two large areas of floating plastic waste in the North Pacific—is an example of how such plastic waste can accumulate and pose a serious threat to the environment.  Composed primarily of plastic litter and other debris, such as derelict fishing nets, much of the trash in the Patch is very small bits of floating plastic debris broken down through photodegradation.

Grants were provided under EPA Pacific Southwest region’s Marine Debris program, which seeks to reduce materials, such as plastics, being released to the aquatic habitats.  Such pollution harms marine and coastal wildlife, destroys ocean habitats, causes navigation hazards, results in economic losses to industry and governments, and threatens human health and safety.

For more information on EPA’s marine debris program, visit:  http://www.epa.gov/region9/marine-debris/

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