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Solving the ocean plastics problem means knowing how plastic gets where it shouldn’t be

By Steve Russell, vice president of plastic, The American Chemistry Council   

General Sustainability Plastic American Chemistry Council Declaration of the Global Plastics Industry for Solutions on Marine Litter Earth Day 2018 plastics water pollution

Sunday, April 22, 2018 is Earth Day, and Steve Russell of the American Chemistry Council takes a look at why plastics refuse is finding its way into our oceans.

WASHINGTON, DC—All of us want clean, healthy oceans, and Earth Day 2018 will heighten enthusiasm around this important cause.

Plastics makers share that enthusiasm, and we’d like focus attention on how plastics are getting where they shouldn’t be and what’s being done about it.

To prevent plastics from getting into our oceans—and to make a difference quickly—we need to start where the problem is occurring. Abandoned fishing gear is part of the problem, but experts have found that most ocean plastic comes from poorly managed municipal solid waste on land. Of that, over 50 percent comes from a small number of rapidly developing economies that have yet to invest in systems to collect and manage that waste.

Plastics makers are partnering with governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to help keep plastics out of our oceans by expanding waste management systems in countries where the most leakage is occurring; by making more efficient, recyclable products; and by investing in transformative technologies and new business models. Ocean pollution is a huge problem, but it is solvable if we focus on capturing and transforming solid waste into valuable products, such as energy and raw materials for new manufacturing.


In 2011, the plastics industry launched the Declaration of the Global Plastics Industry for Solutions on Marine Litter, a partnership of plastics industry associations from around the world voluntarily committed to reducing plastic in our oceans. Since then, the number of projects undertaken by the 75 signatories across 40 countries has grown three fold.

America’s plastics makers have launched several programs under the declaration.

Some of these include supporting legislation to phase out microbeads; partnering with cities, states and EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) to recycle more flexible plastic wraps and bags; and supporting the development of multiple technologies that will convert more used plastics into useful new products.

At the international level, we’re working with our colleagues at other plastic industry associations to bring about improved solid waste infrastructure in emerging economies, particularly those with large populations near rivers and coastlines.

Plastics makers, like anyone else, want a world without plastic pollution. We look forward to working with other stakeholders to reduce waste and create more sustainable products for our customers and for future generations.

Read more about how the complex global issue of marine debris and our thoughts on how to support long-term, holistic solutions in my blog, Earth Day 2018: To Fix Plastic Pollution, We Need to Solve the Right Problem.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people’s lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through responsible care, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a US$797 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation’s economy. It is the U.S.’s largest exporter, accounting for fourteen percent of all American exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure. More information available at

Image from via Erwan Hesry@erwanhesry.



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