Mar 23 - Plastics Associations Make Weak Promises at Marine Debris Conference

At the Fifth Annual International Marine Debris Conference, currently being held this week, 47 global plastics associations including the American Chemistry Council (ACC) agreed to work on reducing marine debris by addressing "poor or insufficient inadequate waste management infrastructure, lack of sufficient recycling/recovery, and bad practices such as land and marine litter."

According to a Plastics News article, Steve Russell, vice president of the plastics division at the ACC, admits that the six areas targeted for reduction activities, including enhancing recycling opportunities and education on efficient waste management systems, are not new and that associations have worked on them in the past. The associations want to try out some of these same ideas in different countries.

Marine litter is a vast problem which the associations agree has "large and complex issues with societal and economic challenges and [is] more than any single entity, industry, or government can solve." But the associations don’t seem to be utilizing any new or innovative approaches to address the problem.

These "old" approaches won’t solve the problem of marine litter. For example, some voluntary recycling programs for certain materials haven’t worked in the past, and won’t work in future attempts no matter the location because of the lightweight characteristics of the materials. Plastic bags and foamed polystyrene are two examples. The recycling rate for plastic bags, the second most commonly found item during International Coastal Cleanups, is only 3% in California despite a statewide recycling infrastructure for plastic bag recycling.

CAW will continue to work towards effective policies that encourage sustainable choices and drive behavioral change towards the prevention of marine litter. See what we’re doing to fight plastic bag and expanded polystyrene litter, and check out our Plastic Litter and Waste Reduction Campaign.