Environmental Protection Agency: What You Can Do About Trash Pollution in Your Waterways

Anyone, from a student to a CEO, can prevent trash from ending up in our oceans. There are actions you can take at home and in your community to protect our water. 

Reducing Trash at the Consumer Level

10 Ways to Unpackage Your Life Infographic

The number one way to prevent trash pollution from ending up in our waterways is to reduce the amount of trash that is created in the first place.

Find ways to unpackage your life with the 10 tips shown on this page.  You can also read about them on our Unpackage Your Life page.

Looking for more ways to reduce the amount of trash you produce? You can make a big difference by:

Proper Trash Disposal

Marine litter is often the result of poorly-managed trash on land. If not disposed of properly, your trash can end up in waterways and flow downstream into the oceans. In fact, 80% of the marine litter found on coastlines during cleanups and surveys originated from land-based sources.

NEW!: Looking for tips and reminders on waste management during and after COVID-19?

  • Remember to throw your masks, wipes, and latex gloves in the trash and not in the street, parking lot, or sidewalk.EXIT
  • Keep Personal Protective Equipment out of the recycling bin.
  • During this time, many of us are home for longer periods of time. You may notice you are generating more material than normal. Be sure to recycle more, recycle right.
  • If someone in your home has COVID-19, treat your recyclables as trash.
  • Spring cleaning? Consider setting aside items to donate, recycle, or dispose of later when it’s safe to bring them to a drop off location or collection event. Follow local guidelines – many localities are limiting service at this time (e.g., not picking up bulk items).

Cleanups and Community Engagement

Getting engaged in your community and taking an active role in cleaning up your neighborhood can have a large influence on the amount of trash that reaches our water. Invite your friends, family, and classmates to join in!

Education Leads to Action

Understanding how trash enters our waterways and impacts our communities, economies, and natural ecosystems is an easy step on the path to tackling the trash pollution problem.

Science Topics
Conservation & Sustainability, Pollution, Waste
Middle School, High School
6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade

What are you looking for?


Environmental Protection Agency

Website URL

Type of Resource


Assigned Categories