US needs to make reducing marine plastic pollution a priority

“With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increasing amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our blue planet with devastating consequences.”

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A recent report was just released entitled Reckoning With the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste, which says an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the worlds ocean each year — the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck or plastic waste into the ocean every minute. 

A quarter of this waste is coming directly from the United States making them one of the worlds leading marine plastic polluters. 

“Plastic waste is an environmental and social crisis that the U.S. needs to affirmatively address from source to sea. Plastic waste generated by the U.S. has so many consequences: 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,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium chief conservation and science officer Margaret Spring. 

Because the bass majority of plastics are carbon-carbon backbone polymers and have strong resistance to biodegradation, plastics accumulate in natural environments, including the ocean, as pervasive and persistent environmental contaminants, the report writes. 

According to Common Dreams, the report lists six steps that can be taken to begin to address the marine plastics crisis:

  1. Reducing plastic manufacturing—especially for single-use and nonrecyclable products;
  2. Innovating design and materials to develop substitutes that degrade more quickly or can be more easily recycled or reused;
  3. Decreasing waste generation by reducing the use of disposable plastics;
  4. Improving waste management including infrastructure, collection, treatment, leakage control, and accounting;
  5. Capturing waste in the environment; and
  6. Minimizing the maritime disposal of plastics.

“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. 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,” says the marine conservation group Oceana. 

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