An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter our ocean each year. Most of that is trash that is never collected, but instead is disposed into city streets or rural areas, or even directly into our rivers and seas. Without concerted efforts to combat marine debris now, the volume of plastic waste entering our ocean will only grow.
Ocean Conservancy has been working on the ground with a global network of Coordinators and volunteers for more than three decades to collect, track and analyze marine debris. Volunteers from states and territories throughout the U.S. and more than 150 countries come together each year and participate in an International Coastal Cleanup event near them. Three decades of Cleanups have kept more than 225 million items of trash, weighing in excess of 220 million pounds, from polluting our ocean. Over 12 million volunteers have covered more than 360,000 miles of coastlines across the world.
In 2012 Ocean Conservancy launched the Trash Free Seas Alliance®. The Alliance unites industry, science and conservation leaders who share a common goal for a healthy ocean free of trash. The Alliance provides a constructive forum focused on identifying opportunities for cross-sector solutions that drive action and foster innovation.
As a signature initiative through the Alliance, Ocean Conservancy has engaged partners around the world to identify the barriers to effective waste management, including financing, and to provide a roadmap for how businesses, governments and nonprofits can come together around this issue as a key piece of solving the ocean plastic problem. When paired with efforts to reduce and reuse waste, these efforts will allow us to take a great leap forward in protecting the ocean, the climate and public health.
The lack of effective waste management is one of the greatest challenges we face in tackling ocean plastics globally. Our research in 2015 revealed that if key economies in Asia Pacific improve current inadequacies in waste management, the flow of plastic entering our ocean could be halved by 2025. Good waste management—including effectively picking up, sorting and recycling trash—is essential for a future in which plastic waste can be recovered and repurposed. Effective waste management also delivers public health, economic development and climate benefits.