Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
Twenty-eight years ago, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association helped organize the nation’s first formal beach cleanup, as part of the International Coastal Cleanup Campaign. With SPI’s support, the event helped bring nearly 3,000 people to a Texas beach one day in 1986 to help pick up litter, giving birth to an annual tradition that has grown to the point where in the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup, nearly 650,000 volunteers across the world picked up more than 12.3 million pounds of trash from the planet’s beaches.
Before the very first beach cleanup, the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a comprehensive study that revealed that plastics debris was a nationwide problem for marine wildlife, which ultimately prompted the event and SPI’s involvement. At the time, CMC asked SPI to “become part of the solution,” an invitation the association and the entire plastics accepted in 1986, and continued to accept every day thereafter.
Recent reports suggest that marine debris is still a serious problem, and SPI remains as concerned and committed to eliminating pollution in our oceans and waterways as it was nearly three decades ago. Plastics are among the many products that can find their way into oceans through accidental spills, improper consumer disposal or inefficient manufacturing processes. Marine debris impacts much more than just the appearance of the natural environment—it affects everything from the safety of the tiniest coral polyps, sea turtles and giant blue whales to local economies, fishing and navigation and even the health and safety of the humans who create the litter.
Because SPI understands its responsibility to the public and the environment, the organization has a long history of working with its members on best practices that advance business sustainability and permit companies to establish themselves as leaders in this space. The result of these efforts has been a series of programs designed to promote zero waste throughout the plastics supply chain, but as far as preventing plastics from entering in the marine environment is concerned, the flagship program is Operation Clean Sweep (OCS).
“SPI remains firmly committed to addressing the issue of marine litter with sound solutions that achieve our goal of pursuing zero waste strategies,” said SPI President and CEO William Carteaux. “Our Operation Clean Sweep program is designed to prevent resin pellet loss and help keep pellets out of the marine environment, and continues to expand globally and is now being implemented by 14 countries around the world. The global plastics industry will continue to build on the commitments we’ve made in previous years to explore marine litter solutions.”
Plastics companies that haven’t yet taken the OCS pledge to eliminate the loss of plastic pellets in their factories and facilities can, and should, do so through the OCS website. Through OCS and other SPI-led programs, the plastics industry is working to keep plastic materials out of the marine environment, and close the loop on plastics, and, with collaboration, hard work and a little bit of luck, in another 30 years, there won’t be an International Coastal Cleanup, not because it’s not important, but because hopefully by then it won’t be necessary.