In May 2019 on the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Gyre I snorkeled among the sargassum in water bluer than imaginable and over 1000 feet deep. This underwater paradise was beautiful but also contained a troubling amount of plastic waste including sunscreen bottles, toothbrushes—even toilet seats, and of course microplastics –tiny fragments that entered this pristine environment as once recognizable items that have broken down over time.
This eye-opening field-work to learn more about marine debris in the North Atlantic gyre was part of SoulBuffalo’s first ever Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit, a convening of plastic industry executives, brand owners and NGOs. We traveled to the Sargasso Sea to get up-close and hands-on with ocean plastic pollution. The expedition also provided opportunities to discuss programs and projects that can inspire partnerships, joint ventures, and R&D initiatives to help mitigate ocean pollution.
Working and discussing solutions alongside representatives from Greenpeace, 5Gyres and WWF, it became clear to all—no single entity can solve the global challenge of ocean plastic pollution. To truly implement effective change, collaboration is our only path forward.
That’s why we’re proud to be a charter member of SoulBuffalo’s newly launched Ocean Plastics Leadership Network (OPLN). The OPLN is a much welcomed evolution and formalization of the work begun during the May 2019 summit in the North Atlantic. While everyone aboard the One Ocean research ship shared the common goal of ending ocean plastic pollution, and many are already engaged in important work to help protect our ocean, it became even clearer that we can do more if we work together.
U.S. resin manufacturers share a deep commitment to ending plastic waste. As an industry, we’re working swiftly with our global partners to drive meaningful change. Success will require innovations in design, new business models, technology development and expanded waste management infrastructure that will help capture more plastics and put their value to work as resources and raw materials. Our members are already working to change how plastic is captured and reused. We’ve set forth ambitious circular economy goals for plastic packaging. We launched the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. And, we’ve implemented a new membership tier to our longstanding resin pellet stewardship program, Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), to enhance the tracking, reporting and prevention of plastic pellet losses.
Participation in the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network further strengthens our ties to other stakeholders working on this critical, global problem. Now, more than ever, we must share best practices and technical expertise, continually exchange ideas and, most importantly, listen to one another.