Ocean Currents

Good News in the Fight Against Plastic

Members of Congress call for a coordinated federal response to plastic waste.

© Samantha Reinders

If you’re reading this, odds are you already know about the dire threat facing our ocean in the form of plastic pollution. Nearly every day brings a new media report about a marine mammal with a stomach filled with plastic trash. Thankfully, we have some good news to report in the fight against plastic pollution:

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) recently called on President Trump to develop a national research and response plan to address to the growing problem of mismanaged plastic waste that gets into our ocean. In a letter to the President, Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal make the case for a coordinated effort across all relevant federal agencies to address the gaps in our scientific understanding of the problem, and mobilize a federal response to the problem. Text of that letter can be found here.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of plastic pollution, but small moments like this are worth noting and celebrating. A comprehensive federal effort is just what’s needed to improve our understanding of the problem and help inform the actions we can and should take to address it.

With an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic flowing into the ocean every year, we are on a pace for there to be a pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the ocean within the next decade. More than 800 species of marine animals are demonstrably affected by plastic, from the smallest plankton to the largest whales.

As a material, plastics persist in the environment for a very long time—maybe forever. They break up into smaller and smaller pieces. And plastics are found everywhere! Plastic—be it large pieces or tiny microplastics—has been found in the deepest reaches of the Marianas Trench and on the some of the highest mountain peaks. Plastic has been found in 59% of sea birds, in 100% of sea turtle species, and more than 25% of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world. We are increasingly finding it in our food supply and our drinking water.

We applaud the effort of Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal. It’s a small but needed step. We encourage you to contact your senators and congressional representatives and urge them to support a mobilized federal response to this extraordinary challenge.

Looking for more ways you can help? Pledge to Skip the Straw or sign up to volunteer at the International Coastal Cleanup.

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