Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Phillip Reeder, Ph.D

Committee Member

Robert Brinkmann, Ph.D

Committee Member

Joni Downs, Ph.D


Bottle Bill, Cigarette, Monofilament, Ocean, Waste


Marine debris is improperly disposed of solid waste, also called litter, which is deposited in the marine environment (NOAA, 2010). Litter prevention techniques such as fines, cleanups, incentives, and others, can help to decrease litter, and ultimately decrease marine debris. This research analyzed 2000 and 2010 International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) data obtained from The Ocean Conservancy to ascertain whether certain litter prevention techniques did reduce amounts and types of marine debris found in coastal areas. The litter prevention techniques analyzed included state bottle bills, voluntary monofilament fishing line recycling programs, and the Keep America Beautiful (KAB) cigarette butt litter prevention campaign. In addition, coastal population density and coastline length were also studied to uncover any potential impact they may have on marine debris amounts.

This study found no significant connection between population density and kilometers of coastline and marine debris amounts. In addition, no statistically significant difference of marine debris amounts was found between states with bottle bills and without bottle bills for 2000 or 2010. Florida has the highest participation in the monofilament line recycling and was analyzed to find any difference between Florida and national averages. No significant difference was found between Florida and the national averages of fishing line debris for the year 2000 or 2010. Finally, there was no significant reduction in cigarette butt litter from 2000 to 2010 (the KAB cigarette butt litter prevention program began in 2002), but there was an increase in cigarette butts per smoker from 2000 to 2010. Other aspects that could impact marine debris amounts are also discussed to help understand the complex causes that lead to marine debris.

Despite these results, the study did highlight some interesting trends. OR, LA, AL, MS, and NC had the largest decreases in marine debris per capita from 2000 to 2010, with decreases of 87%, 79%, 65%, 54%, and 52% respectively. RI more than doubled the amount of marine debris per capita, up 52%, from 2000 to 2010, and DE increased per capita debris 91% in the same time period. RI and DE also saw large increases in marine debris per kilometer coastline, along with MD, over the ten year time span. In addition to population, bottle bill data also provided some interesting clues to potential marine debris reduction. There was no statistical difference between bottle bill and non-bottle states, but bottle bill states did have slightly lower amounts of returnable debris both years. Similar results were found for monofilament fishing line debris. There was no statically significant difference between Florida and the national average of fishing line debris, but Florida did have 92% less fishing line debris than the national average in 2010. The cigarette butt marine debris data, analyzed to find the number of butts found per smoker, increased from 2000 to 2010, which is the opposite trend that was expected. This is most likely due to increased awareness of the impacts cigarette butt debris can have on the environment which is discussed.