UNF partners with Eckerd College to reduce ocean plastic debris

A $150,000 grant will enable a bicoastal program sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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The University of North Florida and Eckerd College received a $150,000 award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a Marine Debris Program to reduce single-use plastic consumption and foster long-term pro-environmental behaviors among undergraduates in coastal communities.

The goal is to reduce marine debris over time, according to a UNF news release.

Eckerd College launched the Reduce Single-Use project in 2018 at its St. Petersburg campus near the Gulf Coast. The new study is a partnership that builds on the initial findings and replicates the project at UNF’s campus.

The two-year project will combine education and initiatives to increase awareness, affect attitudes and beliefs and encourage behavior change among members of the UNF campus community regarding reducing plastic consumption.

Single-use plastics are one of the main sources of plastic debris in the ocean. Improperly disposed items can be blown by wind or washed by rain and eventually enter the marine environment.

Through the new phase of the project on the UNF campus, participation in multiple weeklong Plastic Reduction Challenges will promote individual accountability and commitment via a smartphone app. Participants will log each use and refusal of single-use plastic and receive real-time feedback on behavior.

With the support of the UNF Environmental Center, a series of workshops, lectures, beach cleanup activities and other events will take place during the project to increase plastic reduction awareness and encourage sustainable behaviors.

UNF and Eckerd College will analyze the data collected from the app as well as surveys from the activities to better understand consumption patterns.

Eckerd College will manage the grant and collect and analyze the data received from the UNF campus.

The outreach project is anticipated to be completed in fall 2022.