Marine Debris Prevention & Awareness Grant

Thank you for voting! 

The organization that received the most votes is Earthlanka!

Through the Marine Debris Prevention & Awareness Grant, Turtle Island Restoration Network seeks to support research and conservation projects around the world relating to a massive and growing concern for ocean conservation: marine debris. If you have any questions please email

How it Works

Organizations will nominate themselves to receive a $5,000 grant. If they meet the eligibility requirements, the public will be able to vote for them to receive the grant. The organization that receives the most votes will be awarded the grant! 

Eligible Organizations

The following organizations are eligible to receive the $5,000 grant. Voting ends on February 19, 2021.

ALDEIA – Portugal: ALDEIA aims to contribute to sustainable development through the conservation of nature and the preservation of culture and traditions of rural areas. Grant funds will be used to conduct the project “Clean Up Ria Formosa – Raising awareness on local students and promote clean up events” at Ria Formosa Natural Park (RFNP), a protected area on the southeast coast of Algarve and one of the most important wetlands in Europe and worldwide. The project will develop 18 environmental education sessions for schools at the schools or online and the students will be provided with information about the marine debris issues and given solutions that can be done to prevent and help to minimize it. The project will promote 21 cleanups in RFNP. To encourage the young generation to change habits, they will distribute cloth bags and reusable straws for those who participate in the actions.

Atlantic Marine Conservation Society – United States: Atlantic Marine Conservation Society promotes marine conservation through action. Grant funds will be used to host ten beach monitoring and cleanup events, with a focus on searching for cold stunned sea turtles in danger from October through December. Events that take place from January through September will focus on other marine life that walkers might encounter, like stranded seals or whales. Each beach event will last approximately two hours, and will engage 15 participants at each clean up. A total of 150 people will be participating, giving a total of 300 volunteer hours to the cleanup and monitoring efforts. If each person participating in the cleanup collects five pounds of marine debris, over 750 pounds of debris will be removed from the Long Island beaches. Each beach monitoring and cleanup event will cover a minimum of one mile of coastline, totaling a minimum of 10 miles of coastline that will be monitored for stranded animals and cleaned of floatable debris. This program will serve as a backbone for building community beach monitoring efforts and will increase the program’s impact far after the grant expires.

Circular Foundation – Ecuador: The mission of Circular Foundation is to give sustainable solutions to improve the life quality of Ecuador’s population based in Circular Economy concepts. Grant funds will be used to focus on the plastic debris in the coastal-marine ecosystems of Galapagos by financing coastal cleanup initiatives in the hot spots of debris accumulation around the islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela and Floreana; training volunteers to increase their leadership and further engage local community actors on all four inhabited islands, combining conservation work with economic reactivation and youth empowerment; carrying out workshops where students learn the “value” of the plastic and what can be done with materials collected in the clean-ups; and preparing the edu-communication materials which will reach a large audience on social media, radio and international news.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium – United States: Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) believes in preserving our environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life; environmental education; research; and conservation. Grant funds will be used to allow CMA staff to participate in the Ghost Trap Rodeo event series to locate and remove derelict traps and fishing gear, ultimately contributing to the conservation of waterbodies they depend on. During removal events, CMA will assist in collecting data on the species removed from the derelict crab traps and fishing gear and other environmental events to help educate the public about marine debris.

Coastal Connections, Inc. – United States: The mission of Coastal Connections, Inc. is to protect coastal habitats by educating and connecting people to the environment. Grant funds will be used to support the Vero Goes Zero community sustainability programs and activities designed to help sea turtles recover by doing activities that help protect and clean all the coastal habitats these sea turtles (loggerhead, green, leatherback, and the surprise kemp’s ridley) need to survive. The programs involve expanding the range of the beach basket program to the remaining five public beaches in Indian River County that currently do not have this resource available; beginning to develop a champion program to expand this resource to neighboring Counties to keep beaches clean for nesting; removing over 600 pounds of man-made debris from coastal parks in 2021; and expanding our WRAP recycling program to reduce the amount of single-use plastics that reach the landfill each year.

CONNPIRG Students – United States: CONNPIRG Students is a student-directed non-profit advocacy group that trains college students to make a difference on issues they care about. Grant funds will be used to run a robust volunteer and internship program in Connecticut to recruit and train college students to get involved in their campaign to ban polystyrene and protect our oceans. Polystyrene, what most people refer to as Styrofoam, is harmful to our environment. It’s estimated that it takes hundreds of years to break down completely and that this foam waste accounts for roughly 30% of our landfills waste each year. The campaign plan includes mobilizing volunteers to generate widespread support for the bill from generating petition signatures and social media posts to submitting letters to the editor and lobbying our decision-makers directly; and educating thousands of students across the state through virtual class announcements, listservs, social media, and virtual webinars and briefings on why single-use plastics are harmful to marine life.

Costa Cleanups – United States: The mission of Costa Cleanups is to educate and remove plastic from the beaches of Mexico and South Padre Island and the surrounding waters. Grant funds will be used to support numerous successful beach clean ups that remove thousands of tons of debris and save countless turtles and fish; educate more and more people with their much needed plastic debris to continue their education efforts; and continue to grow and reach more people since we are a tourist area and a lot of our volunteers are tourists.

Earthlanka – Sri Lanka: The mission of Earthlanka is to create and sustain and protect the environment, creating spaces for young people to express themselves and take action on environmental issues, which they feel strongly for safeguarding the earth’s natural resources. Grant funds will be used to carry out collecting debris in selected marine environments of Sri Lanka, which still does not have a marine debris management program. The funds will help to continue the activities every month in the given locations, organize sessions with stakeholders such as fishermen to educate them on harmful impacts to reefs due to debris, and implement school programs to protect the beaches from coastal waste and protect breeding grounds of the turtle to come and hatch.

Fondazione Cetacea Onlus – Italy: Fondazione Cetacea Onlus is a non-profit organization born in 1988 in Riccione. Its fields of application are sea conservation and sea safeguard, in particular of the Adriatic Sea. In 2008 it became a sea turtle recovery center. Grant funds will be used to conserve biodiversity in the Adriatic Sea and raise awareness on the problem of marine debris by involving fishermen in fishing for litter activities; involving fishermen and the harbour authorities, the main users of the sea; environmental communication and education; and beach cleaning activities. Without awareness on the problem of marine debris there is no conservation. With the important work of communication and citizen science, the awareness of the problem increases. 

Free Plastic, Inc. – United States: The mission of Free Plastic, Inc. is to locate, collect, and upcycle the nearly endless supply of plastic pollution found in our local environment, converting it into usable objects and works of art. Grant funds will be used to support neighborhood workshops that teach residents about the waste stream, single-use plastics, and upcycling efforts from around the world as they create unique works of art from the local litter they collected; coordinate cleanups in neighborhoods and our local environment to source materials; and work with various private and public community partners to showcase our plastic creations on high-visibility buildings and walls throughout Miami-Dade County in the neighborhoods in which the plastics were collected.

Friends of Padre – United States: Friends of Padre is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and betterment of North Padre Island and the people and wildlife that call it home. Grant funds will be used to provide logistical support to the annual Big Shell Beach Cleanup. Without the Big Shell Cleanup, the trash that constantly accumulates on Padre Island National Seashore due to the convergence of currents in that area would continue to build up and present increased threats to marine life. This debris originates from five countries, as well as from offshore sources.

Fuze Ecoteer – Malaysia: Fuze Ecoteer (FE) strives to connect people with nature as it’s the increasing disconnection between humans and the world around them that’s causing problems. Through their programmes and projects they seek to bridge that gap and reconnect people with nature. Grant funds will be used to remove and upcycle waste from the seas/beaches and rivers of Malaysia, and implement an adopt-a-bin scheme throughout Malaysia within one year. They will buy back broken fishing gear and ropes from fishers from Terengganu.

Global Purpose Group – United States: Global Purpose Group empowers people and communities to improve their own lives towards a sustainable future. They provide direct aid and structural support for individuals and organizations in the areas of disaster recovery, education, cultural empowerment, poverty alleviation, and natural resilience. Grant funds will be used to restore beaches of Koh Surin, home to some of Thailand’s healthiest and most biodiverse coral reefs, while teaching their children ancestral knowledge that might otherwise fade. The innovative project to connect conservation, cultural empowerment, and meaningful work for adults who are unemployed due to COVID was proposed by a group of elders from the Moken, an indigenous tribe living on the Andaman Sea. Traditionally the Moken led a nomadic lifestyle, roaming from island to island on hand-carved houseboats. In the past 50 years, the pressures of modernity have forced the 1,000 or so members of the tribe that remain to settle in designated zones.

Green Wolf CR – Costa Rica: The mission of Green Wolf is to impact through action as the greatest generator of conviction, to have our own physical center of action where we can work on education from childhood, to promote the generation of new leaders under an egalitarian structure. Grant funds will be used to impact the Costa Rican communities of the Caribbean and Pacific through education campaigns, talks, training and beach cleaning, as well as in the turtle birth seasons by implementing educational campaigns in coastal schools, mobilizing volunteers to the provinces for the protection of turtle nests, and buying trees for the recovery of mangroves and for the removal of waste from coastal ecosystems.

Healthy Gulf – United States: Healthy Gulf’s purpose is to collaborate with and serve communities who love the Gulf of Mexico by providing the research, communications, and coalition-building tools needed to reverse the long pattern of over exploitation of the Gulf’s natural resources. Grant funds will be used to respond to The Bianca Pellet disaster – a release of over 600 million pellets into the Lower Mississippi River that has had very low clean up rate – by conducting surveys for pollution, reporting of marine debris, and direct cleanup, specifically pellet reporting in Iberville, St Charles, St James, Orleans, St Bernard, Plaquemines Parishes, as well as the near Gulf, for Bianca Polyethylene Pellets as well as other industrially sourced pellets.

Keep Aransas County Beautiful – United States: The mission of Keep Aransas County Beautiful is to empower the citizens, businesses and local governments to keep our coastal community clean and pristine, healthy and beautiful, through litter prevention, waste management, beautification and recycling by means of education and enforcement. Grant funds will be used to help debris and trash from our marshes, waterways and shorelines prevents their attempted consumption by marine and bird life as well as entrapment and entanglement by the same by procuring 10 aluminum, powdered coated, post mounted trash bag dispensers at or near boat ramps in Aransas County. They are custom made by a reputable marine boat fabricator out of Corpus and are built to last in this salty climate.

Keep New Hanover Beautiful – United States: The mission of Keep New Hanover Beautiful is to reduce litter, improve recycling efforts and beautify New Hanover County. Grant funds will be used to reduce cigarette litter and have a positive impact on their ecosystem by expanding their Seabin program by adding two Seabins in local marinas; purchasing and installing educational signage for public outreach, and purchasing additional maintenance and research equipment to improve the effectiveness of the devices as well as the quality of our data. As a coastal community, not only does the reduction of cigarette litter have a positive impact on our ecosystem, but the negative runoff into our waters is extremely detrimental to marine life. 

LoveBlue/Oceanamatica – United States: Oceanamatica (being rebranded to LoveBlue) offers mobilized systems to recover plastics and return to industry. Grant funds will be used to complete their educational package and deliver the educational materials to school systems and corporate employee awareness programs. The team at LoveBlue has created a wonderful educational platform with Oceana (a mermaid) and Jett (a human) whose story is told with anime style comic books (colouring books for grades 1-6), which encourage the learner to become an ocean hero as well. For grades 1-6, the curriculum centers on what the learner can do in regards to choices, influencing in the home, and basic data and plan of action. For grades 7-12 and adults, the learner is challenged to find ways to participate, career choices that are ecology centric, and how to network and influence at a much broader scale, including colleagues.

Marine Research Foundation – Malaysia: Marine Research Foundation was incorporated under the Sabah Trustees Act (1951) and established to improve our understanding of marine ecosystems and their associated diverse flora and fauna, across Southeast Asia and other Indo-Pacific sites. Grant funds will be used to cover operational expenses to remove discarded nets from coral reefs in the Marine Park adjacent to Kota Kinabalu, the major marine tourism attraction for visitors and a fishery ground for local water-village people who live on its fringes. The Park is subjected to illegal fishing by large vessels and larger-scale gilder fishers, and nets destroy important coral reefs and associated species.

Matanzas Riverkeeper – United States: The mission of Matanzas Riverkeeper is to protect the health of the Guana, Tolomato, Matanzas watershed through advocacy, education, and community engagement. Grant funds will be used to support the Litter Gitter program that takes members of our community out on the river by boat to remove trash from our waterways and to learn about the issues surrounding marine debris and litter. In addition to picking up litter, participants in the Litter Gitter program are taught about some of the issues surrounding waste in our community and encouraged to become advocates for waste reduction.

MudLab/For Here, Please – United States: MudLab is a cafe and store with a mission: to envision and build a world with a circular economy. Their goal is to make sustainability accessible, affordable, and convenient to people from all walks of life. Along with their partner non-profit (For Here, Please), they work with businesses in Oakland to phase out single-use plastics. Grant funds will be used to continue helping other businesses achieve zero-waste operations by learning from their example; carefully documenting their process and actively reaching out to other businesses to share best practices to spread the zero-waste movement in Oakland and beyond; continue hosting trash-clean ups on Lake Merrit; and prevent thousands of pounds of plastic waste from entering the ocean each year.

Net Your Problem – United States: Net Your Problem’s mission is to engage a variety of stakeholders and partners to create an economically viable pathway to recycle end of life fishing gear, improve waste management, contribute to the circular economy, and reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions related to virgin plastic production. Grant funds will be used to remove hundreds of thousands of lobster line collected from the Florida Keys, and ship it to be recycled with our partner. This will free up space for the continued collection of marine debris in this area, raise awareness about the issue and divert waste from the landfill and the environment.

New York Marine Rescue Center – United States: The New York Marine Rescue Center (NYMRC) mission is to provide sustainable response efforts for marine mammal and sea turtle strandings throughout New York; operate the only facility in New York permitted to rehabilitation marine mammals and sea turtles; collect sound science to help identify stranding trends, highlight viruses and continue to protect endangered and threatened species; and encourage conservation and stewardship of the marine environments through scientific research and public educational programs. Grant funds will be used to create educational materials about the risks of marine debris to the sea turtles and marine mammals in all waters and increase NYMRC’s free public beach cleanups in hopes to decrease the amount of marine debris found on local beaches. All information will also be shared with local townships and state representatives to help address the issues on a larger level.

Plastic Free Cayman – Cayman Islands: The mission of Plastic Free Cayman is to educate, raise awareness and take action in the Cayman Islands against single use plastic. Grant funds will be used to educate the government and public about the dangers and issues of single use plastic through monthly clean ups. As a small Caribbean nation we need to educate and take action. The amount of plastic that would be washed back into the sea is colossal. Cleaning up is vital but with everything imported we also need to ban single use plastic and educate the government and public as to the dangers.

Project AWARE – United States: Project AWARE® is a global movement for ocean protection powered by a community of adventurers. They connect the passion for ocean adventure with the purpose of marine conservation. Grant funds will be used to support the Dive Against Debris program to determine the underwater impacts of COVID-19 and to maximize the three groundbreaking data analysis studies that report Dive Against Debris and land debris collection, highlighting how Dive Against Debris is a scientifically sound and cost-effect monitoring service that national and local governments can use to report on the success of debris management policies as well as the ability to track and measure global and regional conservation commitments such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Reef Check Malaysia – Malaysia: Reef Check Malaysia brings together stakeholders to collaborate on coral reef monitoring, management, research and conservation, and advocacy. Since there was no waste collection system on Mantanani Island, home to one of the best reef complexes on the West Coast of Sabah, islanders and tourists alike dispose of their waste directly into the ocean or conduct open burning to get rid of the waste. Grant funds will be used to operationalise a waste management and recycling system on the island and to address any problems with the segregation of waste among the villagers. The funding would also be used to liaise with the local council and state government on the long-term cost of logistics and resources. It is estimated that 60 tons of waste would be prevented from ending up in the environment each year.

Semillas del Océano – Guatemala: The mission of Semillas del Océano (Seeds of the Ocean) is to implement education, science and community action programs that guarantee the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine life. Grant funds will be used to generate six education campaigns and six beach clean-ups at six coastal communities of the Guatemalan Pacific coast, well-known as a nesting site for the olive ridley sea turtle. 

Shaw Institute – United States: The mission of Shaw Institute is generating independent science that protects human health and the environment. The institute produces scientific research that drives change and inspires solutions to pressing environmental health issues. Grant funds will be used to monitor for the presence of microplastics in seabird guano as well as in the waters surrounding three protected seabird colonies in coastal Maine. Maine island habitat is often thought of as pristine, however plastic debris from human activities accumulates along the coast and in the waters. The impact of this marine debris on seabird colonies in the state has not yet been studied. They hope to pilot an investigation into this issue this coming summer.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii – United States: Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii (SCH) inspires local communities to care for their coastlines. Grant funds will be used to support their hands-on programs and education campaigns designed to serve the entire population of Hawaii, its visitors, and their global audience as they use their extensive reach through social media, news media, and collaboration with partners to invite the entirety of the community to events. While work is done on the coastlines it is imperative that we draw connections to the issues of waste that begin in the production process, radiate to our homes, and extend from mauka to makai. The communities they serve are being burdened with an issue of plastic pollution as trash that enters the ocean from Hawaii and thousands of miles away, circulates in the ocean, breaking up into smaller pieces, entangling and being ingested by wildlife, and eventually washing ashore in hot spots like east facing beaches of the State of Hawaii.

The Beach Co-op (TBCO) – South Africa: TBCO effectively connects people, institutions and organisations through evidence-based education and experiential learning to keep South Africa’s beaches clean and healthy and to protect and enhance ocean health. Grant funds will be used to clean beaches, raise awareness, nurture responsible communities of consumers/citizens, and drive the circular economy to make South Africa free of plastic pollution by (1) Delivering a media campaign with key influencers that amplify our mission to reduce unnecessary single-use plastic; (2) Increasing awareness and continuing data collection of litter that ends up on South Africa’s coastline; (3) Building a network of people – citizens, scientists, influencers – that share their passion to reduce unnecessary plastic and encourage shifts in policy related to the manufacturing and distribution of products packaged in unnecessary single use plastic.

The Development Institute – Ghana: The mission of The Development Institute is to enable African communities confront their development challenges with passion and commitment towards social stability and care for nature. Grant funds will be used to conduct marine litter research and raise awareness of the issues in Ghana, a country where there is limited data on marine debris in most coastal waters. The first point of action will be to document the type and quantity of marine debris in waters, the results will then be used as a case study to initiate awareness campaigns and related education of key players. A rapid assessment will be conducted to document existing marine debris across the four coastal regions of Ghana. In addition, the review will emphasize the distribution of marine debris along the coastline of the country.

The Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts – United States: The Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts is focused on preserving the sustainability of our state’s most valuable commercial, single species, harvested marine resource within state waters, the American Lobster. Grant funds will be used to purchase more of the marine debris boat bags for the “Use the Pail, Not the Rail” educational outreach campaign in every port throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.Through awareness, education and the “one bagful at a time” approach we will be cleaning up the ocean of every day trash and preventing it from entering the ocean. This campaign is needed to help the recreational fisherman; commercial fishermen, boaters and the public to understand what the trash is doing to the marine life and the habitat within our oceans.

The Northcoast Environmental Center – United States: The mission of the Northcoast Environmental Center is to promote understanding of the relations between people and the biosphere and to conserve, protect, and celebrate terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems of northern California and southern Oregon. Grant funds will be used to support programs that remove tons of trash from the beaches, parks and neighborhoods of Humboldt County, the county in California with the most coastline. Expanding their Coastal Cleanup events, Trash Trackers, Adopt-A-Block and Adopt-A-Beach programs will maximize cleanup efforts to benefit the watershed, beaches, coastal waterways, and the marine environment as a whole. Also, by expanding their Coastal Programs, their community members will have the ability to commit to at least one event that fits their busy schedule, thus helping them to participate in something with a positive environmental impact.

The Science Exchange – United States and Mexico: The Science Exchange’s vision is to create leaders who use science, technology, and international teamwork to tackle global conservation issues. Grant funds will be used to train and supervise two college interns and 10 school children to collect data at an olive ridley sea turtle nesting beach at Boca de Tomatlan, Jalisco, Mexico. Interns will also protect female turtles and eggs and remove all the trash on the beach during this period improving coastal, marine, and riverine habitats. They will start a “plastic garden” in the school yard to demonstrate how long the plastic takes to break down, if at all, when composted. The hope is to eliminate these products from the town’s waterways.

WeSea – France: The mission of WeSea is to change the public’s attitude and relationship towards the marine environment by sharing scientific knowledge in an innovative manner. By sharing the importance and the issues of the marine world with the large public, they inspire and motivate others to join them to both care and take action for the sake of our ocean. Grant funds will be used to develop the WeSea virtual reality project, which consists in a multi-language educational tool targeting kids and families worldwide. Their virtual reality project will focus mainly on the impact of marine debris on the ocean, and will provide the user with an immersive and interactive experience in which one can witness the impact of debris on the marine ecosystem. The public will learn about healthy marine ecosystems and its services, about marine debris in the environment, and what solutions exist to reduce our ecological footprint.

Voting ends on February 19, 2021.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Nominated organizations must be a non-profit organization. Non-profit organizations are eligible if recognized for public charity status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or are fiscally sponsored by a 501(c)(3) organization or are tax exempt in the state or country in which it operates.
  • Nominated organizations must use funds within one year to conduct projects relating to marine debris (anything man-made, including litter and fishing gear, that has been lost or thrown into the marine environment) prevention and effective solutions. Some examples of activities could include direct policy advocacy, campaign work, and hands-on conservation.
  • Nominated organizations must have an annual operating budget of $1 million or less.
  • Nominated organizations can be located outside of the United States.


 Nomination Period. Nominations will be accepted starting January 1, 2021. Organizations must nominate their group on the entry form by January 31, 2021 for consideration and participation.

Nominees Announced. Organizations that meet the eligibility requirements will be notified of their voting status by February 1, 2021 via the e-mail address provided on the entry form.

Voting Period. Voting will begin on February 1, 2021 and end on February 19, 2021. Nominees are encouraged to let their supporters know to vote for their organization by announcing it at meetings, on their website, on social media, in an email newsletter, or to local media. Voting will take place online at

Winners Announced. Winners will be announced by February 26, 2021 and funds will be sent out within 14 business days following a signed grant agreement. The winning organizations will be promoted through TIRN media outlets and through press releases. The winner will be notified via e-mail to the e-mail address provided on the TIRN entry form. The highest number of votes in the final round of the contest will determine the winner. Disqualification, forfeiture and the selection of an alternate winner may result from any of the following: (1) failure to respond to email notification within two days of transmission; (2) the return of an email notification as undeliverable; (3) failure to provide Turtle Island Restoration Network with satisfactory proof of non-profit status.

Application Guidelines

In your application, please be able to answer the following questions/requirements. Please note you will be unable to save this application and return to it. We recommend preparing your answers before starting the application.

Nominations will be accepted until January 31, 2021.

  • Organization Name
  • Organization Location
  • Mission Statement
  • Organization Website
  • Organization EIN
  • Number of Employees
  • Number of Volunteers
  • Number of Members
  • Annual Budget
  • Briefly describe the history of the organization.
  • Is your organization fiscally sponsored? If so, please provide fiscal sponsor name and EIN, if applicable.
  • Description of network, community, or individuals that the marine debris project targets. Please indicate if the project addresses environmental justice (including racial and/or socio-economic injustices).
  • Marine species conserved.
  • Please list at least three past successes
  • Why is this work needed to improve marine debris conservation or management?
  • How will grant funds be used to protect marine environments from debris?
  • Please list at least three anticipated results expected during the grant term (one year).

If you have any questions please email