Monday, September 19th, 2011

Plastics Industry Expanding Its Fight Against Ocean Litter

An Internet search for “marine debris” or “ocean litter” reveals  many dedicated sites and blogs that are very active and passionately followed. Click into any of them and you find plastic in the role of the villain, as if all the litter were plastics, which it’s not. One thing you won’t read about, however, is the role the plastics industry, led by its trade associations, is playing in solving the problem.

It’s unknown or unacknowledged that plastics groups around the world have been working on this issue for years, or that the number of plastics industry groups committed to act against ocean and coastal debris is growing steadily, recently reaching Asia. Members of the Asia Plastics Forum (APF) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand at the end of August, 2011 decided they want to step up their involvement in combating ocean litter and marine debris that includes plastics.

 

Plastics News reported from the meeting that the plastics industry across Asia has begun to feel pressure similar to what North American and European plastics sectors have been dealing with for years. One example: India approved a countrywide ban on plastic bags earlier in 2011. Although APF’s secretary-general Callum Chen, who is also CEO of Malaysian molder Lee Huat Plastics Industries, said it was too early to discuss specific plans for Asia, he mentioned the possibility that Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), the ongoing joint effort of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council, could be brought to Asia. No problem: OCS travels well.

Operation Clean SweepRecently, SPI and ACC’s Plastics Division announced a licensing agreement with the Canadian Plastics Industry Association that will bring Operation Clean Sweep to Canadian facilities handling plastic pellets.  In general, the level of activity against marine litter by plastics associations around the globe has intensified in the last year, sparked when an international group of plastics associations convened after the K 2010 trade fair last October in Düsseldorf, Germany and forged an agreement to spearhead movement toward a joint resolution on marine debris. It’s already bearing fruit.

Also attending the APF Bangkok meeting, PlasticsToday reported that the Joint Declaration on Marine Litter drawn up in March 2011 at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Hawaii already had been signed by 53 plastics associations from around the world. Among the first signatories were SPI: The Plastics Industry Association, and the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council.

The Declaration’s first objective is public-private partnerships aimed at preventing marine debris, because this broad of a problem needs a broad solution. Other objectives include enforcing existing anti-litter laws , programs to enhance recovery of plastic products for recycling and energy recovery, scientific partnerships, educational efforts on eco-efficient waste management systems, and programs to prevent pellet spillage in transit.

On September 17, 2011 hundreds of thousands of volunteers joined the Ocean Conservancy’s 26th Annual International Coastal Cleanup, removing trash from America’s beaches and the riverbanks, lakeshores, and other waterways. The marine litter issue is already highly visible and widely followed, and that includes the plastics industry’s professional associations, which are working actively on a variety of solutions.

 

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