Marine Debris Issues in Maryland and Beyond

A bird entangled in balloons lying on a stony beach. Photo by Christine  McGuinness. Clean-Virginia-Waterways Three people walking on the beach with garbage bags picking up marine debris.

Marine debris is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as 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. Anything man-made, including litter and fishing gear, can become marine debris once lost, discarded, or washed into the aquatic environment. The most common materials that make up marine debris are plastics, glass, metal, paper, cloth, rubber, and wood. Marine debris is a complex global problem with disturbing impacts to aquatic life and our environment. Research has also shown that very small pieces of marine debris (called "microplastics" and "microfibers") are present in our drinking water, sea salt, and seafood.

Resources to learn more:


Preventing Balloon Litter

Balloons are unique among all the man-made litter and debris found in the ocean and on the land. Helium-filled balloons (and their attachments including plastic valves, disks and ribbons) are a form of litter that people purchase with the intent to release them “on purpose” into the environment. Learn more about this unique type of marine debris by visiting the links below.


For more information about this issue in Maryland, contact kimberly.hernandez@maryland.gov or donna.morrow@maryland.gov