Types and Sources

Anything man-made, including litter and fishing gear, can become marine debris once lost or thrown into the marine environment. The most common materials that make up marine debris are plastics, glass, metal, paper, cloth, rubber, and wood.

Glass, metal, and rubber are similar to plastic in that they are used for a wide range of products. While they can be worn away-broken down into smaller and smaller fragments, they generally do not biodegrade entirely. As these materials are used commonly in our society, their occurrence as marine debris is overwhelming.

Check out this great site from the California Coastal Commission about debris species that should be extinct!


Debris typically comes from both land-based and ocean-based sources.

gp litter


Plastics are used in many aspects of daily life and are a big part of our waste stream. Like many areas, plastics are the most frequent type of debris found on Jekyll Island beaches.

  Bimini Hermit Crab Jellyfish and bag in net

 What are microplastics?

Microplastics” are pieces of plastic that are less than 5mm long. Microplastics can come from larger pieces of plastic that have broken down over and over again. Or, microplastics can be manufactured. For example, pre-production industrial plastic pellets or plastic “micro-scrubbers” in face wash are considered microplastics.


Derelict Vessels:

Thousands of abandoned and derelict vessels litter ports, waterways and estuaries, creating a threat to navigation, recreation, and the environment.

Jekyll Island ship wreck

Derelict Fishing Gear

Derelict fishing gear refers to nets, lines, crab/shrimp pots, and other recreational or commercial fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the marine environment.