Improving solid waste collection and management is the top short-term solution for reducing the amount of discarded plastic entering waterways across the globe, according to a United Nations report.
The document notes plastic waste management improvements are especially important in developing economies. But it also says the ultimate solution to the marine plastics problem will come through smarter consumption.
“A more sustainable solution in the longer term will be moving towards a more circular economy, in which waste is designed out of the production and use cycle, and society adopts more sustainable consumption patterns,” according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The 192-page marine-plastics policy report explores the problem of marine plastics and proposes solutions.
A leader at the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said the study shows the importance of taking action.
“This report further strengthens the case for immediately working to reduce marine debris by improving and expanding waste management infrastructure in emerging economies,” Steve Russell, vice president of plastics at ACC, said in a statement, “particularly those with large populations near rivers and coastlines.”
The conclusion is consistent with the finding of earlier research sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance, he said. Russell previously spoke with Plastics Recycling Update about the research project.
A total of 65 plastics associations from 34 countries have signed a “Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter.” A 2016 progress report from those associations shows 260 projects have been completed, are underway or have been planned.
Projects to enhance plastics recovery in the U.S., for example, include a project researching sources of plastics debris in Hawaii and an online directory of expanded polystyrene recycling opportunities.