Science Report: US Should Make Less Plastic to Save Oceans

By Seth Borenstein.

America needs to rethink and reduce the way it generates plastics because so much of the material is littering the oceans and other waters, the National Academy of Sciences says in a new report.

The United States, the world’s top plastics waste producer, generates more than 46 million tons (42 million metric tons) a year, and about 2.2 billion pounds (1 million metric tons) ends up in the world’s oceans, according to the academy’s report.

If the current rise in plastics pollution continues, the world by 2030 will be putting 58.4 million tons (53 million metric tons) into the oceans each year, or about half the weight of the fish caught in seas, the report said.

Recycling and proper disposal alone aren’t enough and can’t handle the problem, so the “United States should substantially reduce solid waste generation (absolute and per person) to reduce plastic waste in the environment,” said the report by the independent body of scientists set up by President Abraham Lincoln to advise the federal government on big research issues.

The plastics issue can’t be solved unless the country makes less plastic, designs it differently, keeps better track of it and cleans up more waste, and “that’s why our number one recommendation is to reduce solid waste generation,” said report chair Margaret Spring, chief conservation and science officer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.