This week, leaders from the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and local, state, and federal governments gathered in Washington, DC to outline a plan of action for tackling plastic pollution in the United States. WWF’s Plastic Policy Summit showcased existing efforts to end plastic waste and provided an opportunity for a diverse set of stakeholders to discuss the additional solutions needed to ensure plastic no longer ends up in nature.
“Plastic pollution is a growing global challenge that threatens the health of both nature and people. This problem will not fix itself,” said Nik Sekhran, Chief Conservation Officer, WWF. “To solve it we will need to move towards a circular economy, and this will require players from across the plastics value chain working together toward a shared vision for a future free of plastic pollution. We hope this summit will help to drive that joint effort and provide a roadmap for where we need to go to fix our broken plastics system.”
With ongoing negotiations on a Global Plastics Treaty as a backdrop, participants at the Summit looked ahead to what such a global agreement hopes to achieve and how the U.S. can set itself up to deliver against those ambitions. Areas for discussion included Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), deposit return systems, implementing reuse systems, source reduction at all levels, improving data collection and measurement, and advancing circularity in cities, among others.
WWF has gathered valuable insights that have emerged from the Summit and will publicly distribute a summary and suggested recommendations for Congress, federal agencies, business partners, and state and local governments in the coming weeks.
Quotes From Plastic Policy Summit Participants:
“Advancing commonsense policies to reduce plastic waste is critical if we want to leave behind a cleaner planet for future generations. In Congress, we are working in a bipartisan manner to strengthen recycling infrastructure across our country and ensure there is a market for collected items. At the same time, we need plastic producers to step up and take greater responsibility for the life cycle of their products. If we work together, I’m confident that we can improve plastic recycling, reduce waste, protect our oceans and promote a truly circular economy.” – U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and co-founder of the Senate Recycling Caucus.
“We all play a role in stemming the tide of plastic pollution and marine debris. Through the Marine Debris Program, the Department of Commerce and NOAA are leading action across the federal government and in partnership with multiple sectors to implement novel solutions. Only through these collective and coordinated efforts can we achieve a global ocean that is free from the impacts of plastic pollution.” – Jainey K. Bavishi, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy NOAA Administrator
“When it comes to reducing waste, we were taught the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle; however, the reality for plastics is the three Bs: buried, burned, or borne out to sea. Plastic pollution has severe impacts on Americans’ health, frontline communities, and climate chaos. Oil companies invented a million uses for plastic, now we must design better alternatives-no more single-use plastics. There really is no great future in plastics – only great misfortune. For the sake of our planet and our people, let’s keep up this fight and finally break the cycle of plastic pollution.” – U.S. Senator Merkley (D-OR), Chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Chemical Safety Waste Management, Environmental Justice and Regulatory Oversight, and author of the Break Free From Plastics Pollution Act
“One of our industry’s highest priorities is to create a circular economy for our plastic bottles. It’s why we are taking action at every stage of the life cycle of our bottles to help them make their way back and be remade as intended. We are carefully designing our bottles to be 100% recyclable, investing in modern recycling systems and advocating for better collection polices as we also look at other innovative opportunities to reduce our plastic footprint and keep our bottles out of nature.” – Kevin Keane, Interim President and CEO of American Beverage
“The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) is pleased to participate in this meeting and stand among national leaders in shaping a path forward to reduce plastic pollution. We can recycle more plastic so we can all use less. Our members represent the full value chain of the plastics recycling industry and are committed to working with other partners in supporting effective recycling policies at the state, national and international levels.” – Kate Bailey, Chief Policy Officer, Association of Plastics Recyclers
“While this is a global challenge, solutions must come from local communities and individual action.” – Mayor Dan Gelber, Mayor, City of Miami Beach and Chair, US Conference of Mayors Environment Committee.
“The global plastics treaty is an unprecedented opportunity to make progress on one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time, plastic pollution. To solve this crisis, the science is clear that we need to do it all: drastically cut virgin plastics production and single-use plastics and packaging; collect, manage and recycle the plastics we do need and use; and clean up plastics in the environment. No single NGO, government, business, or other entity can accomplish that alone, which is why gatherings like this are so important. Ocean Conservancy looks forward to working with our colleagues in the environmental community and others to make the most of the negotiation process.” – Nick Mallos, Vice President of Conservation, Ocean Plastics, Ocean Conservancy
“Communities in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, such as my hometown of Wallace, can no longer bear the burden of plastics. The WWF Plastic Policy Summit gave me the opportunity to express this concern to some of the biggest Plastic users in hopes that we can work toward equitable solutions to reduce and relieve the harmful impacts of plastic on suffering communities.” – Jo Banner, Co-Founderand Co-Director, The Descendants Project
“We can only tackle the plastic waste problem with action and commitment from leaders across the public, private and NGO sectors. To drive real change for our planet and future generations, we will need data-drive action, well-designed policy, and public-private collaboration.” – Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership
“Science plays a key role in addressing plastic pollution. Although we have enough information to take action, data remains an important piece, and keeping data open and in the hands of community members and decision-makers is essential so that they have the power to make context-sensitive choices. The Circularity Informatics Lab (CIL) at the University of Georgia is proud to work with communities to collect data and to work with many of the partners at the summit to address plastic pollution from the ground up. I am hopeful this will create the system change that is needed.” – Jenna Jambeck, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering, University of Georgia
About World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
WWF is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working in nearly 100 countries for over half a century to help people and nature thrive. With the support of more than 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat the climate crisis. Visit https://www.worldwildlife.org to learn more and keep up with the latest conservation news by following @WWFNews on Twitter and signing up for our newsletter and news alerts here.