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UNF receives award to fight ocean plastic pollution

NOAA funding research

Everyone at UNF will wear a face-covering while inside under preliminary plan
Everyone at UNF will wear a face-covering while inside under preliminary plan

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The University of North Florida and Eckerd College have received a $150,000 award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program to reduce single-use plastic consumption and promote long-term habitats among college students in coastal communities to protect the environment, UNF announced Wednesday.

The goal is to reduce the generation of marine debris in those areas over time. 

According to UNF, a two-year project will combine education and outreach efforts to increase awareness, affect attitudes and beliefs, and encourage behavior changes among members of the UNF campus community regarding reducing plastic consumption. Single-use plastics are well-documented to be one of the major sources of plastic debris in the ocean.

Eckerd College launched the Reduce Single-Use project in 2018 at its St. Petersburg campus. The new study is a partnership that builds off the initial findings and attempts to replicate the project on UNF’s campus, as it has richer diversity and provides an opportunity to learn how to reduce single-use plastic on a larger scale.

Through the new phase of the project on the UNF campus, there will be multiple week-long “Plastic Reduction Challenges” that aim to increase individual accountability and commitment through 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 also take place during the project to raise plastic reduction awareness and encourage sustainability.

UNF and Eckerd College will then analyze the data collected from the application, as well as surveys from the activities, to learn more about consumption patterns.

Eckerd College will continue to manage the grant, run surveys, conduct challenges and outreach activities, as well as collect and analyze the data received from the UNF campus.

The project is set to be completed near fall 2022.