An estimated 15 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s ocean and waterways each year, threatening marine life and polluting shorelines. That’s the equivalent of two garbage trucks emptying a load of plastic rubbish into the sea every minute.
Plastic is interlaced with nearly every aspect of human life, from shopping bags and food packages to car parts and cell phones. But once it enters the ocean, plastic can remain there for hundreds of years, breaking down into ever-smaller pieces that are nearly impossible to remove. Plastic debris is also deadly to marine life, such as when they either mistake it for food and starve as it fills their stomachs or get entangled by the plastic and drown.
As of 2017, factories had produced a cumulative 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastic, and only 9% of that amount had ever been recycled. Plastic packaging and single-use items become waste immediately after use and often escape into the environment, accounting for 61% of the litter scattered across beaches. In fact, plastic debris can be found in just about every corner of the ocean, including remote islands, both the North and South poles, and even the deep seafloor.
In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering marine waters, Pew is working with governments, industry, scientists and other non-governmental organizations or civil society to better understand this global problem and implement impactful and mutually reinforcing solutions across the plastic system.
- Work with countries around the world to develop strong enforceable and locally relevant policies to turn back the tide on ocean plastic pollution through addressing in country plastic use and waste management, reducing unintentional release of microplastics and advancing environmentally sustainable international trade of plastics.
- Foster increased private sector accountability and transparency to the public through establishment of a voluntary plastic disclosure and reporting system.
- Work with policymakers and stakeholders in the European Union to conduct research and promote ambitious measures to reduce microplastic pollution.
- Identify and support trade-related policy solutions to help reduce plastic pollution via the World Trade Organization and other forums.
- Engage in the development of the United Nations' global plastics treaty, working to encourage ambition in the negotiations and the inclusion of reductions in virgin plastic production, action on microplastics, and disclosure and reporting in any final agreement.
- Update the “Breaking the Plastic Wave” analysis with new data to assess progress since the release of the 2020 report and facilitate additional government policies and corporate action to maintain momentum to stop ocean plastic pollution.
Breaking the Plastic Wave
Landmark analysis describes actions needed to stop plastic from entering the ocean