In an effort to combat marine debris, a group led by the American Chemistry Council plans to work at identifying recycling opportunities, developing an anti-litter education campaign and creating more public-private partnerships.
``Plastics are ending up in the ocean as marine debris and they don't belong there. They belong in a recycle bin or a trash can,'' ACC products division Vice President Sharon Kneiss said Nov. 29, after a two-day closed workshop on marine debris in La Jolla, Calif.
The workshop brought together government and nongovernment parties to discuss the issue.
``Plastics need to be recycled,'' she said by phone. ``We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Time is not on our side. So we are going to adopt a great sense of urgency on this.''
Seven cities in California have banned the use of expanded polystyrene takeout food containers, and San Francisco and Oakland have banned plastic shopping bags. Similar concerns in other countries have led to bans or taxes on shopping bags.
Kneiss said there was ``some skepticism'' before the workshop began. But that was quickly erased, she said, as there was agreement halfway through the first day that all litter was the issue and there needs to be education and greater opportunities for people to recover products and materials.
``There was an acknowledgment that litter is broad-based and that plastics is the most visible because it floats,'' Kneiss said. ``And we acknowledged that plastics litter in unacceptable.''
``You could see a shift in the discussion formulating around education and enhancing the opportunities for recycling and making it easier for people away from home,'' said Kneiss, who has more than three decades of experience dealing with government and regulatory issues.
She said the workshop partners will issue a full report on conference findings in mid-December and an advisory group of eight to 10 people will meet in January to begin planning a public education campaign. The partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Coast Guard, the state of California, Keep California Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful, as well as other federal government agencies.
``All of the participants agreed that getting the message to Californians and the entire nation that littering is an unacceptable behavior anywhere, any time, is key to reducing marine debris,'' said Christine Flowers-Ewing, KCB's executive director, in a statement. ``Preventing litter from getting into our oceans is a goal we all share.''
Kneiss agreed. ``We need to develop a nationwide ethic on the unacceptability of littering,'' she said. ``We need to gauge the current attitudes toward litter to find what messages will work best to move the needle. We need to work with multiple stakeholders to accomplish this. We need to do our homework to develop an effective communications program. We have a lot of work ahead of us.''
The marine debris effort is part of a $2.5 million public education campaign and recycling effort that ACC kicked off Nov. 1 in California.