Marine Debris

One of the most talked about categories of marine debris is ocean plastic. Plastic marine debris is any plastic material that inadvertently makes its way out to sea—none of it belongs there. In general, marine litter is any human-created waste that has been discharged into the coastal or marine environment.

Definition of Marine Debris

Specifically, “marine debris” is defined to include any anthropogenic, manufactured, or processed solid material (regardless of size) discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the environment, including all materials discarded into the sea, on the shore, or brought indirectly to the sea by rivers, sewage, storm water, waves, or winds.”

Innovative Plastic Packaging

Plastic packaging not only delivers direct economic benefits but can also contribute to increased levels of resource productivity. For instance, plastic packaging can reduce food waste by extending shelf life and can reduce fuel consumption for transportation by bringing packaging weight down.

“People around the world rely on plastics to do more with less and lighten society’s environmental footprint. Strong, lightweight plastics enable us to reduce material use and ultimately conserve resources, save energy, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce waste. Plastics’ environmental profile can become even stronger when we all work together to recycle or otherwise properly dispose of these efficient materials after use.”
–Steve Russell, American Chemistry Council

A recent study from Trucost, “Plastics and Sustainability: A Valuation of Environmental Benefits, Costs, and Opportunities for Continuous Improvement,” compares the environmental costs of using plastics to alternative materials. The study found that replacing plastics in consumer products and packaging with a mix of alternative materials that provide the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to $533 billion annually. That’s because strong, lightweight plastics help us do more with less material, which provides environmental benefits throughout the lifecycle of plastic products and packaging. The Trucost study also identifies opportunities to help further lower the environmental costs of using plastics in consumer goods and packaging, such as:

  • Increasing the use of lower-carbon electricity in plastics production
  • Adopting lower-emission transport modes
  • Developing even more efficient plastic packaging
  • Increasing recycling and energy conversion of post-use plastics to help curb ocean litter and conserve resources

2016-Progress-ReportWorking Toward Clean Oceans

America’s Plastics MakersTM stand with scientists and policy makers who have found that effective solutions require actions to improve litter prevention, recycling, and other waste management infrastructure, along with strong regional and international partnerships.

Since 2011, plastics makers have been partners in many efforts to research and prevent marine debris around the world under our “Declaration of the Global Plastics Solutions for Solutions on Marine Litter,” which has been signed by 75 plastics associations in 40 countries. The Declaration focuses on education, public policy, best practices, plastics recycling and recovery, plastic pellet containment, and research. The 2017 Progress Report lists 355 projects that have been completed or are in progress in various parts of the world since the effort began.

What are Microplastics?

Learn about microplastics in the environment.

Marine Litter Solutions

Learn how the plastics industry is working to prevent marine debris around the world.

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