An estimated 8 million metric tons (MMT) of plastic waste enters the world's ocean each year - the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste into the ocean every minute. Plastic waste is now found in almost every marine habitat, from the ocean surface to deep sea sediments to the ocean's vast mid-water region, as well as the Great Lakes. This report responds to a request in the bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act for a scientific synthesis of the role of the United States both in contributing to and responding to global ocean plastic waste.
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.
Table of Contents
|2 Plastic Production and Global Trade||23-34|
|3 Plastic Waste and Its Management||35-54|
|4 Physical Transport and Pathways to the Ocean||55-66|
|5 Distribution and Fate of Plastic Waste in the Ocean||67-86|
|6 Tracking and Monitoring Systems for Ocean Plastic Waste||87-105|
|7 Interventions for U.S. Contributions to Global Ocean Plastic Waste||106-125|
|Appendix A: Biographies of the Committee on the United States Contributions to Global Ocean Plastic Waste||158-163|
|Appendix B: Definitions and Acronyms||164-166|
|Appendix C: Legal Framework||167-181|
|Appendix D: Estuary Table||182-187|
|Appendix E: Global Instruments and Activities Relevant to Ocean Plastic Pollution||188-194|
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