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Groups urge more cooperation on marine litter

By: Steve Toloken

November 27, 2013

A global alliance of plastics associations is calling on governments and other business sectors like retailers and brand owners to do more to combat trash littering the ocean, and said such broader cooperation could be key to future progress.

Nine plastics associations from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe wrapped up three days of meetings in Malaysia on Nov. 20, and said in a statement that the industry had increased the number of marine litter programs worldwide from 100 in 2011, when they launched their global partnership, to 140 now.

The forum, which included plastics trade groups from Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Africa and the United States, called on other plastics manufacturers, brand owners, retailers and institutions to undertake similar efforts.

“The plastics industry also made clear that more involvement of leaders from other business sectors is necessary,” the group said in a statement.

“We believe that strategic partnerships with intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and marine researchers offer a good opportunity for real progress, particularly on resource recovery,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the Washington-based American Chemistry Council.

“Our industry has proven that it is determined to actively contribute to prevent marine litter,” he said. “Therefore we now need the involvement of others to take our actions to the next level.”

In a statement to Plastics News, organizers said the industry did not make any specific commitments at the Malaysia forum on the number of future projects it would undertake or how much money it would spend, but said that each national or regional group is responsible for funding its own projects.

The meeting is designed to share information and encourage participation, the associations said.

“The focus of our work on marine debris is not to achieve a specific target number of projects, but instead to build momentum for solutions, and to find ways to bring about new partnerships, including with organizations that have not yet signed on to the plastics industry’s ‘Declaration on Global Solutions for Marine Litter,’” Russell said, referring to a March 2011 plan endorsed by 58 associations worldwide.

In their comments, the plastics association leaders said governments needed to better integrate litter into their national waste management strategies and conduct more education on marine litter problems.

“Emerging technologies such as energy recovery and integrated recycling programs are possible solutions to prevent marine litter, in particular in regions without integrated waste management infrastructure, in coastal areas with large populations and on small island nations,” said Lim Kok Boon, president of the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association in Selangor, Malaysia. “This requires working together with all interested organizations in partnerships.”