Chemistry Council Responds to California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and Ocean Protection Council Report
Today, California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi announced the findings of a recent report on marine debris. At the American Chemistry Council (ACC) we agree that even one piece of plastic in the ocean is too many. Plastic is a valuable resource – too valuable to waste. Plastics do not belong in our waterways or on our beaches; they belong in the recycling bin.
While we agree that a solution to the problem of marine debris must be found, proposals to ban plastic products fail to consider the impacts of alternative materials on our environment. Additionally, taxes and fees levied on the purchase of plastic materials are especially troubling for their negative impact on consumers and businesses.
Furthermore, as we consider the solutions to marine debris, it is important to understand the scope of the concern. A recent study of marine debris performed by Dr. Miriam Doyle, suggests that the sources of marine debris include all sources of litter. As a matter of fact, the study found that non-plastic debris collected during the sampling period was 63 percent greater than the amount of plastic debris collected. The study further found that the likelihood of ingestion is minimal due to the low mass and concentration of debris particles relative to zooplankton organisms. Clearly, more study is needed to assess impacts of ingestion on marine life, and ACC supports the development of such studies.
We all have a responsibility to reduce litter and prevent our coastlines and oceans from becoming repositories for waste. Although the Lt. Governor indicates no interest in reaching out to the business community to tackle these issues, the ACC and our member companies are partnering with government, academia, businesses and consumers to find solutions to the problems of litter and marine debris.
ACC is working with a diverse group of industry representatives, federal and state government officials, and representatives from non-governmental organizations to find ways to prevent litter from becoming marine debris. This effort will include programs to reduce litter and encourage greater recycling.
The plastics industry has been instrumental in promoting practices to contain plastic pellets. In California last year, ACC worked with the state Legislature to enact a new state law – AB 258 – that requires containment measures to reduce the release of plastic pellets into the marine environment.
ACC has continually supported the implementation of California’s landmark plastic grocery bag recycling law by developing public education materials, providing grocers and retailers at-store recycling promotional materials, and an on-line plastic bag information website (www.PlasticBagRecycling.org) allowing consumers to locate the most convenient plastic bag recycling opportunity in their neighborhood.
In addition, by working in partnership with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the nonprofit Keep California Beautiful, plastics producers have placed new recycle bins on California’s beaches to help increase the recycling of plastics and keep them out of our oceans and waterways. Through this and other efforts to promote plastics recycling nationwide, we are able to give plastics a second life to create products ranging from fleece jackets and detergent containers to carpeting and durable outdoor decking.
Plastics manufacturers are continuously improving plastic products and packaging through innovation. Plastics are routinely re-engineered to become lighter and more efficient, which means lighter loads and fewer trucks and railcars needed to ship the same amount of product. Fewer trucks and railcars means less oil is needed to transport products – and, of course, it also means fewer emissions and lower shipping costs. In fact, a recent study shows that using plastics instead of alternative materials helps to reduce energy consumption by 46 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 56 percent.
Marine debris is a complicated problem, and finding effective solutions will require cooperation and commitment. Plastics producers are dedicated to being part of the solution to marine debris, and by working together, all of us can contribute to cleaner oceans, cleaner coastlines and a cleaner environment. We will continue to work with the state of California and other partners to address the concerns of litter and marine debris.
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