On March 29 Senators Sullivan (R-AK), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Booker (D-NJ) introduced the bipartisan Saving Our Seas Act, which also included Senators Coons (D-DE), Inhofe (R-OK), Murkowski (R-AK), Peters (D-MI) and Tillis (R-NC) as cosponsors. In addition to reauthorizing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris research program, the bill underscores the need for international action to reduce marine litter. The strong bipartisan support for this bill shows that clean, healthy oceans is a shared value. Associations representing plastic makers have worked closely with NOAA and others to help drive effective marine debris solutions, and we congratulate these sponsors for their leadership.

The Saving Our Seas Act will make resources available to assist developing countries with expanding waste management systems, including recycling and recovery. This is an important earmark and one in line with a growing consensus for improved waste management systems as a critical part of curbing the amount of trash entering our oceans. Last year the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance® released, Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean, a first-of-its-kind analysis that evaluates specific land-based solutions for plastic waste in the ocean. The recommendations have subsequently been mirrored by reports and recommendations from the United Nations Environment Assembly and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Over the years, associations representing plastic makers have been partners in many efforts to research and address marine debris, through prevention, education and removal. Our efforts include working with governments and conservationists to encourage recycling and discourage litter, educating children on the link between litter and marine health, promoting industry wide practices to contain plastic pellets, and working with NOAA to advance scientific understanding of marine litter. And, in California, we’ve placed more than 700 recycling bins and educational signage in state parks-owned sites along coastal areas.

In 2011, plastics associations around the world joined forces to share knowledge and recommend effective practices for keeping plastics out of the ocean. These efforts are formalized under the “Declaration of the Global Plastics Solutions for Solutions on Marine Litter,” which has been signed by 69 plastics associations in 35 countries.  Currently, more than 260 projects focused on researching, preventing or reducing marine debris are underway around the globe.

Marine debris is too big of an issue for any one organization, government, country or region to tackle alone. The Saving Our Seas Act will help support long-term, holistic solutions to this global challenge.

Originally posted on ‘Chemistry Matters,’ A blog of the American Chemistry Council