Report: Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Plastic Pollution

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This report responds to a request in the bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act for a scientific synthesis of the role of the US both in contributing to and responding to global plastic pollution in the oceans. We want to point out that of course plastic pollution spans much more than plastic in the oceans, extending throughout plastic’s endless toxic existence and including many types of land, air, and water pollution, from the moment its fossil fuel ingredients are extracted through storage, transportation, refining; manufacturing, use, and disposal. We also note it is less preferable to refer to plastic pollution as “waste,” as that confers that pollution is acceptable and manageable if it is not wasted—which is not the case.

From abstract: “The United States is a major producer of plastics and in 2016, generated more plastic waste by weight and per capita than any other nation. Although the U.S. solid waste management system is advanced, it is not sufficient to deter leakage into the environment. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste calls for a national strategy by the end of 2022 to reduce the nation’s contribution to global ocean plastic waste at every step – from production to its entry into the environment – including by substantially reducing U.S. solid waste generation. This report also recommends a nationally-coordinated and expanded monitoring system to track plastic pollution in order to understand the scales and sources of U.S. plastic waste, set reduction and management priorities, and measure progress.”

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