Marine Debris Foundation Grantmaking Overview

The Marine Debris Foundation (MDF) seeks to address the problem of marine debris through diverse partnerships, initiatives, and creative solutions. The MDF defines “marine debris” as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes (per the Marine Debris Act definition, 33 U.S.C. 1956, Section 7). This would include, for the MDF’s grantmaking purposes, attention to upstream sources of marine debris. The MDF’s Grantmaking Initiative is focused on strengthening, enhancing, and improving domestic and international efforts that reduce and remove marine debris and/or address the adverse impacts of marine debris on the economy, environment, and/or maritime safety.

Focal Areas

The Marine Debris Foundation prioritizes grantmaking to augment the efforts and impact of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program (MDP) and otherwise further related goals. As such, any proposed project should fit into one or more of the following marine debris focal areas:

  • Reduction
  • Prevention
  • Removal
  • Assessment

Through regular consultation with the NOAA MDP, the MDF will prioritize its annual grantmaking on focal areas that increase the scale, scope, and impact of efforts seeking to address marine debris, and in areas where the NOAA MDP may be unable to allocate resources. In general, we will award funding to project submissions that deliver the biggest impact in and across the focal areas.

Geographic Priorities

The Marine Debris Foundation awards grants in the United States of America and internationally. The MDF understands that many localities and communities are disproportionately impacted by the plastic crisis and, thus, projects in these areas will be given priority. Internationally, the MDF will emphasize funding in the Global South–defined as countries or regions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania that are low or middle income and historically marginalized.

Evaluation Criteria

The MDF aims to provide fair and equitable consideration to all grant requests. All grant requests are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Environmental impact: the net environmental benefit of the proposed activities;
  • Human health and environmental justice: the net benefits of improving air quality, water quality, water quality and human health from proposed activities;
  • Innovation: novel and creative proposed interventions, methodologies, service models, and technologies to be tested/used (if applicable);
  • Feasibility of implementation: political, financial, technological, and behavioral science circumstances required to successfully execute proposed activities;
  • Solution-oriented: direct application of research, interventions, and campaigns to produce solutions to marine debris and plastic pollution;
  • Sustainability: likelihood of the project continuing to make an impact following the term of the grant;
  • Organizational capacity: necessary logistical and technical qualifications of the applicant to execute proposed project/activities

Priority/Strong consideration will be given to:

  • Replicable and scalable models across different geographies 
  • Cost-reducing technologies and best practice solutions 
  • Community-led initiatives, particularly from frontline communities
  • Collaboration with existing organizations and a high level of stakeholder engagement
  • Initiatives with strong community engagement and informed by behavioral change science
  • Organizations with strong diversity and/or headed by Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC) leaders
  • Projects that advance Environmental Justice


  • Any U.S. or international charity, non-profit organization, state, municipality, city, town, or indigenous community working on issues pertaining to marine debris reduction, prevention, removal, or assessment is encouraged to apply. Organizations and/or communities disproportionately affected by environmental injustices as a result of plastics production, pollution, and/or marine debris are also encouraged to apply.
  • The MDF grant funding prioritizes initiatives led by nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations or the equivalent; however, other nonprofit or charitable organizations (including international charities) are eligible for funding if their proposed initiatives fit within at least one of the strategic focal areas.  
  • For-profit organizations, while not prioritized, are eligible for funding for projects that fit with at least one of the strategic focal areas or offer great potential for positive impact. For-profit entities are encouraged to collaborate with one or more non-profits to maximize impact.
  • The following types of activities are not eligible for MDF grant support:
    • Lobbying
    • Litigation 
    • Legally mandated mitigation projects 

Grant Awards and Timeline 

  • The MDF awards grants annually during a call-for-proposal process, with grant periods ranging from 12 to 24 months; multi-year grants will also be considered.  
  • The MDF provides both project-specific and general operating grant funding to eligible organizations. However, the MDF does not provide funding for large capital or infrastructure projects or endowments.

Application Process

The Marine Debris Foundation requires the following Sections in its application process. All applicants will be required to complete Phase One. Only finalists will be invited to complete Phase Two of the application process.

  • Phase One:
    • Application Form – must be completed with requested information
    • Narrative – responses not to exceed 3,000 words
  • Phase Two (finalists only):
    • Additional Narrative Material – as requested
    • Itemized Budget – in accordance with the model that will be provided
    • Required Documentation for Payment – as requested


  • Proposals that exceed the above parameters will be rejected and failure to submit all required material will result in disqualification. 
  • Once awarded, funds cannot be transferred to another person, organization, or institution outside the parameters of the grant proposal.

Award-Related Activities

If your proposal is selected to receive funding from the Marine Debris Foundation, your organization can expect the following next steps:

  • Applicant signs grant agreement
  • MDF shares information with grantees on engagement and reporting requirements
  • MDF may directly engage with grantees via calls and email communications during the grant term, as needed
  • Grantees may be asked to submit at least one story during the course of the project to be spotlighted on the MDF website and other platforms

Monitoring & Evaluation

  • The MDF will request a narrative report, financial report, and completion of a grantee survey. To the extent its funding sources permit, the MDF is committed to reducing the reporting burden on grantees and implementing best practices in grantmaking. The MDF will share reporting requirements and templates after grants are  awarded.

Please feel free to contact if you have any questions.


The Marine Debris Foundation is a 501(c)3 – Tax ID #88-4011690.
Donations are 100% tax-deductible as allowed by law.

990 Form | 501(c)3 IRS Determination Letter
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration