Dec 01, 2021
The United States is the world's leading marine plastics polluter and should devise a "national strategy" by the end of next year to address the crisis, according to a new report published Wednesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
"We can no longer ignore the United States' role in the plastic pollution crisis, one of the biggest environmental threats facing our oceans and our planet today."
The congressionally mandated report--entitled Reckoning With the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste--revealed that at least 8.8 million tons of plastics enter the world's oceans each year, with about a quarter of that amount coming from the United States.
"Plastic waste is an environmental and social crisis that the U.S. needs to affirmatively address from source to sea," Monterey Bay Aquarium chief conservation and science officer Margaret Spring--who chaired the study committee--said in a statement.
"Plastic waste generated by the U.S. has so many consequences," she added, "impacting inland and coastal communities, polluting our rivers, lakes, beaches, bays, and waterways, placing social and economic burdens on vulnerable populations, endangering marine habitats and wildlife, and contaminating waters upon which humans depend for food and livelihoods."
\u201cAn estimated 8M metric tons of plastic waste enter the world\u2019s #ocean each year \u2013 the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste into the ocean every minute. \n\nRead more about the U.S.'s contributions in a new report: https://t.co/qdfEvOWKs6\n#OceanPlastic #environment\u201d— National Academies (@National Academies) 1638374706
The report lists six steps that can be taken to begin to address the marine plastics crisis:
- Reducing plastic manufacturing--especially for single-use and nonrecyclable products;
- Innovating design and materials to develop substitutes that degrade more quickly or can be more easily recycled or reused;
- Decreasing waste generation by reducing the use of disposable plastics;
- Improving waste management including infrastructure, collection, treatment, leakage control, and accounting;
- Capturing waste in the environment; and
- Minimizing the maritime disposal of plastics.
The marine conservation group Oceana said in a statement that "there isn't a place on Earth untouched by plastic."
"Plastic has now been found everywhere, including in the most unexpected places: Arctic sea ice, the Mariana Trench, air in the remotest of mountains, rain in our national parks, and our food, including honey, salt, water, and beer," the group continued. "Scientists are still studying what all this means for human health. With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increasing amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our blue planet with devastating consequences."
\u201cThe study committee, which I chaired, finds the US needs to substantially reduce the waste we generate and create a systemic national strategy at all stages of the plastic life cycle to reduce our outsized & increasing contribution to this global problem.\nhttps://t.co/jrsyq5i4F8\u201d— Margaret Spring (@Margaret Spring) 1638390720
Oceana plastics campaign director Christy Leavitt said that "we can no longer ignore the United States' role in the plastic pollution crisis, one of the biggest environmental threats facing our oceans and our planet today."
"This report shows that much of the plastic waste that threatens critical ecosystems, wildlife, and human health around the globe originates here in the U.S., and our country's leaders have a responsibility to change that," she argued.
"A national solution is already mapped out, thanks to the introduction of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act earlier this year," Leavitt continued, referring to a bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).
"Now it's time for members of Congress to pass it," she added, "so we can stop wasting time with inadequate solutions and finally tackle the plastics problem with the comprehensive approach and source reduction it requires."
The report comes less than two weeks after the Biden administration--in sharp contrast to the Trump era--announced support for developing a global treaty to tackle marine plastic pollution, a move that was applauded by environmentalists.
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.