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National Academies: Coherent and Comprehensive Policy Necessary to Reduce Plastic Waste in The Ocean

Matthew Kastner

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 1, 2021) – Today the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) released a report on the United States' contribution to plastic waste in the ocean. The following statement from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) may be attributed to Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics:

“Today’s report from the National Academy of Sciences underscores the importance of transitioning to a circular economy to conserve resources, protect the environment, and prevent plastic from entering the ocean. Plastic is a valuable resource that should be kept in our economy and out of our environment. ACC is appreciative that NAS undertook this study to identify the United States’ contribution to plastic waste in the ocean and where more work is needed.

“The primary finding from the report is that the U.S. needs a coherent and comprehensive policy strategy to reduce plastic waste in the environment. America’s plastic makers fully agree. Earlier this year we announced 5 Actions for Sustainable Change, urging Congress to adopt policies to accelerate a circular economy, and 5 Principles to End Plastic Waste Globally, urging the United Nations Environment Assembly to start negotiation of a global treaty that addresses leakage and builds waste management infrastructure.

“There is significant alignment in what the plastics value chain and NAS report are calling for, particularly in improving access to waste collection and recycling infrastructure. Expanding advanced recycling technologies, which can increase the scope and amounts of plastics that can be recycled beyond those that can be recovered through traditional or mechanical recycling, will play a critical role in our success. Since 2017, more than $7.5 billion in advanced recycling projects have been announced or are already operating, with the potential to recycle 11.7 billion pounds of plastic waste.

“The report also supports setting recycling targets, creating producer responsibility systems, and measuring progress. All these recommendations are components of our 5 Actions for Sustainable Change and 5 Principles to End Plastic Waste Globally. Unfortunately, the report also suggests restricting plastic production to reduce marine debris. This is misguided and would lead to supply chain disruptions, economic and inflationary pressure on already hurt consumers, and worse environmental outcomes, particularly related to climate change.

“Additionally, America’s plastic makers are calling on Congress to have NAS study greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts from raw materials used in packaging and products. Just as today’s report helps inform policy to address and prevent marine debris, studying the lifecycle impacts of materials such as plastic, metal, glass, and paper can help inform climate policy.”

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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