Solutions to Marine Litter
Scientific research has documented plastic in lakes, rivers and each of the world’s oceans, and estimates are that 80% of the debris in our oceans started out as land-based litter. Litter can enter waterways along with rain water, or be blown from poorly managed landfills and uncovered loads. Although plastic items generally enter the ocean intact, over time through sunlight and wave action they can degrade into smaller pieces which can wash ashore causing coastal pollution, or be accidentally consumed by or entangle birds, fish or marine mammals. Experts agree: to stem the flow of plastics into the ocean, we must urgently start collecting and recycling municipal solid waste, with a focus on countries with expanding populations where such systems are not yet in place.
Looking to the Future
The plastics industry has been – and remains – committed to finding and implementing effective solutions to this very real problem. Building on work in individual regions, trade associations representing both plastic resin makers and converters have come together to work with governments, NGOs, researchers and other stakeholders to prevent marine litter. In 2011 the global plastics industry officially united under a Global Declaration reflecting specific actions taken to prevent marine litter solutions. The Declaration now has 70 signatories and we’ve implemented more than 355 projects in 40 countries to work on keeping plastics out of the oceans. Commitments have been made to:
- Contribute to solutions by working in public-private partnerships aimed at preventing marine debris;
- Work with the scientific community and researchers to better understand and evaluate the scope, origins and impact of and solutions to marine litter;
- Promote comprehensive science-based policies and enforcement of existing laws to prevent marine litter;
- Help spread knowledge regarding eco-efficient waste management systems and practices, particularly in communities and countries that border our oceans and watersheds;
- Enhance opportunities to recover plastic products for recycling and energy recovery; and
- Steward the transport and distribution of plastic resin pellets and products from supplier to customer to prevent product loss and encourage our customers to do the same.
We are also working with leaders in the Asia-Pacific region, where ocean plastic inputs are the highest, to catalyze investment in municipal solid waste collection and recycling programs. And we are working with the U.N. to provide technical expertise and a range of commitments under the Global Partnership on Marine Litter. A detailed progress report can be found below.
Experts Weigh In
Professionals from the plastics industry share their perspectives on how building awareness and improving waste management can help create a global circular economy to curb marine debris. World-renowned experts include Richard Thompson OBE, Professor of Marine Biology, University of Plymouth; Patrick Thomas, Founder of the World Plastics Council; Robert Kaplan, Founder/CEO, Circulate Capital; Nina Goodrich, Director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Anton de Vries, Director, Enerkem.