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Plastic makers committed to preventing marine litter, focused on solid waste solutions

American Chemistry Council comments following UN Ocean Conference

June 9, the United Nations Ocean Conference concluded with a 'Call For Action' for voluntary commitments on marine litter.

According to the American Chemistry Council's (ACC) Steve Russell, VP of plastics, "Experts agree: to stem the tide of marine debris, we must prevent land-based trash from reaching our oceans in the first place. We must do so urgently, with an initial focus on parts of the world where such systems are lacking. This includes reducing waste, improved collection and sortation, matched with the latest recycling and recovery technologies.

"While we congratulate the United Nations on its tremendous work this week to prioritize this important issue, we had hoped the outcomes would focus more on building political and financial support for improved waste management, or on deploying innovative recycling and energy recovery," said Russell. "Recommendations to instead ban or reduce the use of specific products may give the illusion of progress, but in fact don't help us solve the bigger problem.

"Nevertheless, our industry remains committed to delivering solutions. Plastics makers currently have more than 260 projects around the world either planned, underway or completed to combat marine litter. Our combined efforts, to research and prevent marine debris around the world under our 'Declaration of the Global Plastics Industry for Solutions on Marine Litter,' have grown each year since 2011, when it was launched. Signed by 70 plastics associations in 35 countries, the declaration focuses on education, public policy, best practices, plastics recycling and recovery, plastic pellet containment, and research."

Russell continued by saying, "We are working with leaders in regions where ocean plastic inputs are the highest, to ensure that waste management systems are a priority, and to catalyze investment in those systems. And we are working with the UN to provide technical expertise and a range of commitments under the Global Partnership on Marine Litter. 

"People around the world rely on plastics in innumerable ways. Durable and lightweight, plastics are amazing materials that provide important societal benefits including energy and resource savings, preventing food waste, improved healthcare and consumer protection. But when plastics are improperly managed, their full sustainability benefits aren't realized. Solutions require the cooperation of industry, civil society and other stakeholders to effect meaningful change."