UN Ocean Conference Adopts Resolution to Reduce Plastics; Industry Pushes for Waste Management

Plastic Pollution Coalition was honored to participate in the United Nations Ocean Conference, June 5-9, 2017, the first of its kind to be focused on the issues surrounding ocean health and marine life. In partnership with the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, Seventh Generation Advisors, 5 Gyres, and the Sustainable Oceans Alliance, our shared primary concerns were presented:

  1. The oceans are an international commons, which we all have an obligation to protect;
  2. Institutions and people across the world should be invested in preventing ocean acidification;
  3. Inter-agency mechanisms for the UN should be strengthened to promote coordination on the oceans; and
  4. Plastic pollution and marine debris are first waste problems before they are waste management problems, and all nations should be coordinating to reduce the production and use of single-use plastic.

In advance of the conference, the American Chemical Council announced a $10 million fund dedicated to reducing ocean plastic pollution. We support the efforts by the ACC and its partner NGOs to prevent significant amounts of plastic from entering the world’s oceans. Yet we feel funding for innovative solutions would be best invested in primary source reduction - namely, decreasing the amount of single-use plastic packaging, containers, and bags produced and used globally.

National and international bans, restrictions, and regulations on the “free” distribution of single-use plastic containers - bags, to-go boxes for food, wrappers, and single-serving sachets - are a meaningful way to reduce plastic pollution on land and in waterways. Waste management alone is too disparate of a mechanism. There are tens of thousands of jurisdictions across the globe that handle their own waste management; updating and maintaining systems in perpetuity is inefficient and extremely expensive.

Governments and NGOs coordinate as a global community to prevent plastic pollution and costly waste management, by restricting its production and use at the national and international levels. Work must be done to elevate and scale the many projects worldwide undertaking the monumental task of collecting, cleaning, and making use of the hundreds of millions of tons of plastic pollution which has already been created.

An international movement of more than 800 coordinated NGOs, also the first of its kind, has demonstrated that source reduction does solve the larger monumental problem of plastic pollution: by simultaneously supporting local efforts to reclaim and recycle existing plastic pollution, while phasing out the use of single-use plastic worldwide at every level, we will see an end to our overwhelming waste problem.

We envision a world where communities, governments, and businesses can work together to achieve an economic system that respects the environmental limitations of our planet and ensures the rights and protection of all peoples. Our continued reliance on single-use plastic products must change. We support efforts to both repair the damage already caused and to prevent any further exhaustion of or harm to our natural resources, including the ocean. Therefore, we applaud the resolution adopted by the UN in concluding the conference, affirming the need for “long-term and robust strategies to reduce the use of plastics and microplastics, particularly plastic bags and single-use plastics.”

Plastic Pollution Coalition joined more than 836 governments, organizations, businesses, and institutions across the globe in submitting a voluntary commitment for plastic pollution reduction during the UN's Ocean Conference. Read the commitment: International Working Group Coordination for Plastic Pollution Reduction.

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