The Washington-based Ocean Conservancy says waste management in Asia Pacific countries is one key to reducing plastics pollution in the oceans — it estimates that better practices for collecting and sorting trash in that region could cut in half the amount of plastic that get into oceans by 2025.
The NGO released a new report Feb. 14, “The Next Wave: Investment Strategies for Plastic Free Seas,” looking specifically at how to start to do that, including examining financing and other barriers.
“Clearly, the lack of effective waste management is one of the greatest challenges we face in tackling this global issue,” the group said.
The report, it said, is an attempt “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 group said.
The report suggests that voluntary efforts like its beach cleanup, while valuable, are dwarfed by the amount of plastic waste getting into the world's waters.
It said that the 30 years of its annual International Coastal Cleanup, involving 11.5 million volunteers in 153 countries, has collected 220 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways.
But Ocean Conservancy CEO Andreas Merkl said in the report that annually, an estimated 8 million metric tons (or 17.6 billion pounds) of plastic gets into waters.
That number seems certain to grow, with economic development worldwide meaning that plastic use is projected to rise substantially.
By my analysis of their data, if the average coastal cleanup day brings in 7 million pounds of litter of all kinds, and if you did that 360 days a year, you'd bring in 2.6 billion pounds of trash, which is less than 15 percent of the 17.6 billion pounds of plastics entering the oceans each year.
“We're proud and humbled by the combined accomplishments of cleanup volunteers, but it's clear that with 8 million metric tons of plastic trash entering our ocean every year, and the prospect of 250 million metric tons of plastic in the ocean by 2025, cleanups alone will not suffice,” Merkl wrote. “We must tackle plastic waste's leakage from all points in the pollution pathway.”
Merkl said the report focuses on the most rapidly developing countries in Asia, including Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
It was put together with help from a steering committee that includes representatives of Dow Chemical Co., Amcor, the American Chemistry Council and the World Wildlife Fund. As well, it said that governments, NGOs and think tanks in Asia and worldwide consulted.
The 97-page report says it's a complex problem, and notes that governments in rapidly developing countries will be hard-pressed to pay for the cost of better waste management entirely on their own, given the many challenges they face.
It called for more partnerships between governments, business and civil society to deal with the problem, and said it believes it is possible to develop solutions.
“Each of these actors has a strong interest in solving the post-consumer waste crisis in developing Asia,” it said. “Through cooperative financing, sharing of analytical and marketing resources, research and development joint ventures, and joint advocacy for the right policies, it is possible to meet the environmental goal of significantly reducing the leaking of plastic waste to the ocean.”