Ocean Plastic

Report: Plastics, Pollution & Solutions: Recycling programs and solutions

Updated March 16, 2022; originally published April 2018

Executive Summary

Plastic pollution is a problem that affects the entire world, polluting both land and water. The equivalent of nearly two trucks’ worth of plastic litter is dumped into the oceans every minute, totaling 19-23 million metric tons annually. The entire marine ecosystem, from coral reefs and plankton to sperm whales, is negatively impacted by plastic pollution.[1]Alfred Wegener Institute, “The ‘Plastification’ of the Ocean,” awi.de, February 9, 2022

Huge plastic islands are floating in the ocean and coming ashore on small island nations. Some of the plastic can be recycled (PET or PETE – polyethylene terephthalate), some plastic cannot be mass recycled (food packaging), and some plastic contains chemicals that should not be used again (BPA – bisphenol-A).

Some start-ups and organizations are coming up with solutions to plastic pollution that benefit poverty-stricken communities overwhelmed by plastic debris.

Since pollution from plastic waste affects the entire world and continues to grow, and China, which had been recycling around half of the world’s waste, began refusing to accept some recyclables from other countries, new solutions are needed to recycle the world’s plastic pollution washing up on all of the world’s shores.

In 2019, most of the world’s countries agreed to new restrictions on moving plastic waste to fight against the effects of plastic pollution.[2]Rob Picheta, “Over 180 Countries — Not Including the Us — Agree to Restrict Global Plastic Waste Trade,” cnn.com, May 11, 2019 That action followed a global petition signed by nearly one million people urging action to prevent western countries from “dumping millions of tonnes of plastic waste on developing countries instead of recycling it.”[3]Rob Picheta, “Over 180 Countries — Not Including the Us — Agree to Restrict Global Plastic Waste Trade,” cnn.com, May 11, 2019

On March 2, 2022, 175 nations at the UN Environment Assembly adopted the first-ever plastics pollution treaty.[4]Reuters, “UN Agrees to Create World’s First-ever Plastics Pollution Treaty in a Blow to Big Oil,” CNN.com, March 2, 2022 The resolution pledged to draft a legally binding agreement tackling plastic pollution by 2024.[5]FP Explainers, “UN Passes Historic Resolution to End Plastic Pollution: What Does It Mean, Why This Is a Need of the Hour,” firstpost.com, March 4, 2022 In a joint statement welcoming the resolution, US Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), stated: “We are very pleased to see this major step forward in the global fight against the marine debris crisis and look forward to collaborating with partner countries to reach a final agreement.”[6]United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “Joint Statement From Senators Menendez, Sullivan, Whitehouse on the UN Environment Assembly’s Establishment of Committee to Tackle Global … Continue reading

Click here to read the entire report on plastics pollution or download as a PDF.

References

References
1 Alfred Wegener Institute, “The ‘Plastification’ of the Ocean,” awi.de, February 9, 2022
2, 3 Rob Picheta, “Over 180 Countries — Not Including the Us — Agree to Restrict Global Plastic Waste Trade,” cnn.com, May 11, 2019
4 Reuters, “UN Agrees to Create World’s First-ever Plastics Pollution Treaty in a Blow to Big Oil,” CNN.com, March 2, 2022
5 FP Explainers, “UN Passes Historic Resolution to End Plastic Pollution: What Does It Mean, Why This Is a Need of the Hour,” firstpost.com, March 4, 2022
6 United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “Joint Statement From Senators Menendez, Sullivan, Whitehouse on the UN Environment Assembly’s Establishment of Committee to Tackle Global Plastic Pollution,” foreign.senate.gov, March 3, 2022