A Voice for Our Ocean

Statement: U.S. Plastics Pact Materials Elimination List Critical to Cleaning Up U.S. Recycling Stream, Keeping Plastics Out of our Ocean

English Español Français Deutsch Italiano Português русский বঙ্গীয় 中文 日本語

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Plastics Pact – whose private sector activators represent a third of the U.S. supply of plastic packaging – released its list of problematic materials to be eliminated from packaging applications. This marks the first of the Pact’s four targets, identified in June 2021, to move the U.S. toward a circular plastics economy. Ocean Conservancy is one of 12 NGO members of the Pact (which brings together more than 100 government bodies, businesses, trade organizations and NGOs) and has provided input on the development of this list since joining the pact as a founding activator in 2020.

Dr. Anja Malawi Brandon, U.S. Plastics Policy Analyst at Ocean Conservancy and Pact Advisory Council Member, released the following statement:

“Recycling will only work if we stop pumping contaminants and unrecyclable materials into the system and, among other measures, we need recycling to work if we want to keep plastics out of our ocean. Study after study is very clear on this: we have to reduce plastic production, and increase our recycling rates, to have a meaningful impact on plastic pollution.

“Unfortunately, our research shows that a majority of the trash found on beaches and waterways around the world every year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup is effectively unrecyclable. Phasing out these eleven materials will go a long way in cleaning up the recycling stream and our coastlines.”

Chever Voltmer, Plastics Initiative Director at Ocean Conservancy, added:

“In many ways, the U.S. recycling system has been built to fail. There are thousands of local recycling systems – each with its own requirements and limitations – while almost half of Americans do not have access to curbside recycling. Consumers and recyclers alike must contend with complicated, disparate materials that are not clearly labeled. Plastics recyclers, whose costs are relatively fixed, often cannot compete with federally subsidized virgin fossil fuel-based plastics. Eliminating these eleven materials is an important first step in making recycling accessible.

“Our hope is that this list – endorsed by some of the biggest plastics packaging producers in the country – will be a starting point from which policymakers can turn voluntary commitments into law. We have seen this happen in the UK, and we hope to see it in the U.S., as well.”


NOTE TO REPORTERS: Fact sheets about the 11 items, plastic recycling in the U.S., and more are available here.

About Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program
Ocean Conservancy has led the fight for a clean, healthy ocean free of trash since 1986, when the U.S.-based nonprofit launched its annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Since then, Ocean Conservancy has mobilized millions of ICC volunteers to remove trash from beaches and waterways around the world while pioneering upstream solutions to the growing ocean plastics crisis. Ocean Conservancy invests in cutting-edge scientific research, implements on-the-ground projects, and works with conservationists, scientists, governments, the private sector and members of the public to change the plastics paradigm. To learn more about our Trash Free Seas® program visit, and follow Ocean Conservancy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Back to Top Up Arrow