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By Patrick Krieger, Director, Sustainability & Materials

 

The United Nations marks “international days” as an opportunity to educate, mobilize political will, and celebrate the achievements of humanity. These observances highlight issues that are important, like the International Day of Human Rights, and challenges that we collectively need to work to solve, like World Press Freedom. Today is World Oceans Day, which provides an annual forum to learn more about how we can work together to protect our oceans, which cover nearly 70% of the Earth’s surface. We must all continue to work together to understand the importance of our oceans, develop or increase the program designed to keep them clean, and celebrate how people are already trying to #ProtectOurHome. 

There are numerous resources for both explaining the sources and impacts of marine debris on the oceans. At PLASTICS we believe uncollected plastic products do not belong in the environment, and that includes the oceans. Plastics offer many sustainability advantages and to realize their full potential, plastics should be collected and reused for their highest and best use. Preventing plastics from entering the environment and ocean benefits both ecosystems and economies.

PLASTICS is committed to doing our part and has several initiatives and activities to address the challenges that perpetuate marine debris, including plastics marine debris. The first step is understanding the issue and being able to talk about it with others. We have a whole section for people who are trying to educate themselves on This Is Plastics.

Over three decades ago, PLASTICS, which was then called SPI, was part of the first International Coastal Cleanup alongside the Ocean Conservancy. The International Coastal Cleanup is an international program designed to help keep litter out of the marine environment by engaging with community volunteers to cleanup around our coastlines, rivers, and lakes.

For 29 years, PLASTICS has run the international stewardship program, Operation Clean Sweep which works to reduce pellet-, powder, and flake-loss. The program has created tools for industry best practices and encourages continual process improvement. In 2016 to mark the 25th anniversary of the program, PLASTICS and our partner the American Chemistry Council (ACC) announced the creation of an additional tier to the program. OCS blue provides recognition to the companies who have made additional commitments to reduce pellet loss, such as providing annual data to the program.

PLASTICS also participates and helps in organizing the Global Plastics Alliance. Since it’s inception in 2011, over 75 plastics organizations in 40 countries have signed up to the six commitments in the “Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter.”

Recently, PLASTICS hosted a webinar, Putting Marine Plastics to Work in the Supply Chain, which was part of the first segment of the 2020 Relfocus Virtual Webinar Series. This session featured panelists who are leaders in research on the recycling of plastic marine debris and exploring clean-up strategies. The panelists spoke on cleanup projects and how the introduction of new plastic materials plays a role in helping recycling efforts. A recording of the webinar is available here. The next webinar- Driving Environmental Outcomes Using Life Cycle Analysis - will be held on June 17th. It will explain how life cycle analysis (LCA) can be used as a tool to reveal the critical information necessary to make choices about materials and design that will drive the best environmental outcomes. Register today or join the conversation using #Refocus20.

PLASTICS goal is to continue to grow sustainability in manufacturing, push new end markets forward, and bring together influential thought leaders across the plastics supply chain to share ideas and develop innovative solutions. In addition to the aforementioned projects, PLASTICS spearheads some amazing sustainability initiatives such as New End Market Opportunities (NEMO) for polyethylene film, the Pacific Northwest Secondary Sorting Demonstration Project, and the Bioplastics Division, to name a few.

PLASTICS is a member-led, member-driven organization. Our members have identified sustainability as one of our four key strategic goals. We look forward to having the important conversations and engaging in sustainability, especially marine debris. On this topic, please reach out to us at pkrieger@plasticsindustry.org.

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