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 or poorly managed municipal solid waste. Land-based 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.
Although these are large and complex issues with societal and economic challenges – more than any single entity, industry, or government can solve – plastic makers are doing our part to respond. 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. Under the industry’s “Global Commitment to Marine Debris Solutions” 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.
To date some 185 separate initiatives have been undertaken by nearly 60 associations in some 20 countries around the globe. A detailed progress report and list of those projects can be found at: http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Education-Resources/Publications/Progress-Report-2014.pdf