Marine News from the Great Lakes

Ohio Sea Grant Receives NOAA Grant To Educate Lake Erie Island Tourists About Plastic Pollution Prevention

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Ohio Sea Grant Extension Educator Jill Bartolotta and Stone Lab Education and Outreach Specialist Sue Bixler have received $49,988.37 from the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s FY2018 Marine Debris Prevention grant competition to educate visitors to South Bass Island about the impacts and prevention of plastic trash.

The project goal is to create marine debris messaging and outreach activities targeted to tourists visiting Port Clinton, South Bass Island, and Put-in-Bay. The messaging will focus on single-use beverage containers like water bottles and soda cups, straws, and cigarettes, which are some of the top trash items found during beach clean-ups. The associated reduction in litter will benefit both the natural environment and the tourism industry by keeping island beaches and natural areas cleaner.

“With more than 800,000 people visiting South Bass Island every year, we want to focus on tourists as our main audience,” said Bartolotta. “The project will also target student groups who come to the islands for educational opportunities, so we’ll be connecting with a large percentage of visitors.”

The project team is focusing on four approaches to marine debris education:

Recorded messages and signage at ferry terminals, on ferries, and in shuttles and taxis will focus on the hazards of improperly disposed plastics and simple actions visitors can take to prevent those problems.

Well-known tourist spots on the island will delve deeper into the topic with interactive exhibits, prominent signage, and short interpretive talks using two hands-on activities. The Trash Tote and Gifts of Lake Erie will be created as part of the project, focusing on the basics of marine debris, its impacts on the environment, and how they can be prevented. Cigarette disposal containers and recycling kiosks will be installed to make debris prevention as easy as possible for island visitors. Student groups visiting the island will also have the opportunity to participate in a shoreline cleanup as part of their field trip.

Messaging on menus and table tents at partner restaurants, along with a “skip the straw” campaign, will help raise awareness about issues caused by plastic straws. Restaurant staff will not provide straws to guests unless requested, and will receive training to answer questions about the campaign. Giveaways such as reusable straws, koozies, drinking glasses, and coasters will serve as campaign reminders to patrons once they leave the restaurant.

Lastly, boaters visiting the island will be taught how to properly manage trash when out on the water, in collaboration with the Put-in-Bay Yacht Club and the Ohio Clean Marinas Program. Boater giveaways will specifically target their waste management needs with a clean boating kit.

Educators will work with The NOAA Marine Debris Program, The Jet Express ferries, Miller Boat Line, Island Transportation and Put-in-Bay Tour Train Operations, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, Put-in-Bay Township Park District at the Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve park location, Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center, The Ohio State University’s Stone Lab and Aquatic Visitors Center, The Boardwalk Family of Restaurants, The Keys restaurant, Put-in-Bay Yacht Club, the Ohio Clean Marinas Program, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The project will be completed in early 2021.

The Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 33 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information, visit

This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Education, Environmental Impact, Lake Erie

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