Thursday, November 17th, 2011
This week I had the opportunity to travel to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on behalf of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association. Dubai, in and of itself, is a fascinating city with lots of extremes such as the world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa), the world’s largest acrylic panel (measuring 32.88 meters wide x 8.3 meters high x 750 mm thick and weighing 245,614 kg) at the Dubai Aquarium and Aquatic Zoo, and the world’s largest mall (the Dubai Mall). Although Dubai has many interesting distractions, the purpose of my trip was to participate in a meeting with fellow plastics industry representatives from around the world to work together and create a global action plan for solutions on marine litter.
As I’ve written about in a previous blog post, marine debris is an issue affecting all of us. In March of this year in conjunction with the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, SPI, along with 46 other world plastics organizations in 29 countries signed and released a Declaration for Solutions on Marine Litter. The Declaration described steps that the industries will take, and suggested approaches and platforms for global cooperation and future partnerships to address the issue of marine litter. It outlined a six-point strategy for industry action, and advocated close cooperation with a broad range of stakeholders to shape solutions for the marine environment. Since March an additional seven plastics industry associations have signed onto the declaration. The declaration was a start, however the real question is: “What’s the plan to address the issue of marine litter?”
At the meeting in Dubai, the global representatives worked together to create a global action plan for solutions on marine litter. This action plan describes steps to be taken and progress to be reported in 2012. A total of over 99 projects were identified, covering 32 countries, in addition to the global activities supported by all signatories. Amongst the activities that the industry is implementing within the joint declaration is a partnership with The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP). GESAMP is an advisory body to the United Nations (UN) system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. The plastics industry has committed to support GESAMP’s effort to evaluate the sources, fate and effects of micro-plastics in the marine environment.
As part of SPI’s commitment to addressing marine debris, we will continue our focus on SPI’s own marine debris initiative, Operation Clean Sweep (OCS). The OCS program includes more than 140 companies that have pledged to take necessary management steps to ensure that spilled resin pellets do not make their way to local waterways or the ocean. For 2012 SPI will be focused on growing and expanding the program globally. We have a goal to double the number of SPI member companies that participate and to double the number of international association partnerships (in addition to those we have in place with the British Plastics Federation, Canadian Plastics Industry Association, Fédération de la Plasturgie, and Plastics New Zealand). We also plan to utilize SPI’s own NPE2012 event in April 2012 as an opportunity to promote the OCS program and to get companies to sign up for this great program committed to zero pellet loss.
The time spent with industry colleagues in Dubai has provided an important opportunity to collectively work together to implement solutions to tackle the critical issue of marine debris.