A Voice for Our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy Aims to Make Miami Trash-Free

First-of-its-kind Study Addresses Plastic Pollution in Miami

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MIAMI – Ocean Conservancy is unveiling a new study aimed at making Miami trash-free. After nearly a year of research, Miami is the first American city to finish a Circularity Assessment Protocol (CAP) study. The report uncovers the sources of plastic pollution in the city, so leaders can create new solutions to protect Miami’s treasured waters.

“What happens on land has a lasting impact on the health of Biscayne Bay, the Miami River and the ocean,” said Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker, director of Florida Conservation for Ocean Conservancy. “Completing the CAP study is a major accomplishment for Miami. It is an incredible tool for determining where debris comes from, so we can take action to stop plastic pollution from devastating our waters.”

The University of Georgia conducted its CAP study in partnership with Ocean Conservancy and the city of Miami. At a news conference along Miami’s waterfront, Ocean Conservancy leaders, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and community activists praised this significant achievement.

“We are proud to say that Miami is the first city in the nation to use this sophisticated approach,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said. “Miami’s beaches and waterways are the heartbeat of our community and local economy. We must do everything we can to protect our beautiful city for generations to come.”

The CAP study began last May, with researchers analyzing the sources and types of consumer plastics, the cost of reusable products and alternatives to plastics, and recycling issues. It tracks the lifecycle of plastic products from their use to their disposal to understand its impacts on the environment. It also looked at consumer trends and public perceptions about waste and debris.

“While it’s important that we accurately record plastic and other litter that we see on the ground or in the water, the CAP involves several other key components,” said Dr. Jenna Jambeck, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering. “For example, we go to local stores to see what kinds of products are most frequently sold and how they are packaged, we examine waste management practices, and we work closely with members of the community to better understand local attitudes about conservation and pollution. The entire process is in collaboration with local partners and the city or community to highlight strengths and recommend actions to increase circularity and keep plastics out of the environment.”

Key Takeaways:

  • FINDING: Debris winds up in our waters from places that are not obvious. What happens in neighborhoods far from the Miami River or Biscayne Bay has an impact.
    • In total, 10,122 litter items were recorded by the CAP in May 2021 in areas across all five commission districts in Miami. The highest litter densities were found in the areas with the lowest population.
    • RECOMMENDATION: Invest in more inland and community cleanups in addition to beach cleanups, so that local residents can more strongly make the connection between the litter in their own neighborhood and the health of the ocean and city.
  • FINDING: There is shared responsibility for debris in our waters, from single-family homes to condo towers, from corner stores to office towers.
    • Plastic fragments, food wrappers, and tobacco products are the top items contributing to urban litter in Miami, consistent with data from Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup. The largest percentage of litter everywhere was plastic fragments. 55% of the litter items documented were common plastic items.
    • RECOMMENDATION: Focus on reducing plastic pollution at the source by banning plastic bags and regulating packaging that is non-recyclable in Miami’s current recycling system. Provide incentives to vendors for using recycled products. Increase information programs to raise public awareness of recycling programs in the community and schools.
  • FINDING: The pathways for litter don’t just traverse rivers and canals but also stormwater infrastructure.
    • Miami-Dade County has over 95,000 stormwater inlets, catch basins, and grates. It is estimated that over 16 million pounds of debris enter those inlets every year.
    • RECOMMENDATION: In September 1, 2021, an initiative to improve storm drains launched with 1,000 filters – 200 for each district – scheduled to be installed. With this initiative come exciting opportunities for outreach to ensure that people know about the investment and the infrastructure and what they can do to help prevent plastic pollution.

Relying on the research from the CAP, Ocean Conservancy and the city of Miami will partner with local organizations to develop community efforts to help carry out these recommendations. Within the next few months, this working group will propose new regulations that the city could adopt. Initial working group recommendations include tackling the problem at its root by influencing corporate behavior and enshrining the circularity problem as something to be addressed in local ordinance.


About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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