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Ocean Conservancy backpedals on technologies, waste plastics sources in “Stemming the Tide” report

Ocean Conservancy backpedals on technologies, waste plastics sources in “Stemming the Tide” report

Following its prior findings in a report published in 2015, Ocean Conservancy, a non-profit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, DC, made a statement on July 10 to clarify its position regarding technological solutions, and waste plastics contributors:  “In February 2015, a ground-breaking paper was published in the journal Science that estimated, for the first time, how much plastic was entering the ocean from land due to mismanaged waste. The Science paper ranked all 192 coastal countries according to plastic leakage into the ocean and highlighted that improving waste management around the world was a critical component to keeping plastics out of our ocean.“

“In September 2015, Ocean Conservancy released Stemming the Tide, a report developed with outside consultants that built upon the estimates published in Science. In Stemming the Tide, Ocean Conservancy focused solely on minimising the amount of plastics entering the ocean.“

“We investigated and included incineration and waste-to-energy as acceptable solutions to the ocean plastic crisis, which was wrong. We failed to confront the root causes of plastic waste or incorporate the effects on the communities and NGOs working on the ground in the places most impacted by plastic pollution. We did not consider how these technologies support continued demand for plastic production and hamper the move to a circular economy and a zero-carbon future. Further, by focusing so narrowly on one region of the world (East and Southeast Asia), we created a narrative about who is responsible for the ocean plastic pollution crisis – one that failed to acknowledge the outsized role that developed countries, especially the United States, have played and continue to play in generating and exporting plastic waste to this very region. This too was wrong.”

“We apologize for the framing of this report and unequivocally rescind any direct or indirect endorsement of incineration as a solution to ocean plastic pollution. Accordingly, Stemming the Tide is no longer available on our website and we have ceased all promotion and reference of it. “

“Waste management and recycling remain critical to solving plastic pollution, but these strategies must be paired with greater efforts to reduce virgin plastic production and as part of a larger move toward a circular economy. Incineration is antithetical to these efforts and to Ocean Conservancy’s commitment to a healthier ocean protected by a more just world.”

It also clarified its position on chemical recycling: “Ocean Conservancy does not presently support any form of chemical recycling. In its current form, chemical recycling does not contribute to a circular plastics economy because it is not plastics-to-plastics recycling and creates environmental and social harms that are inconsistent with our goal of a healthier ocean supported by a more just world. At the same time, chemical recycling distracts from implementing much-needed systemic fixes to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics and improve waste management and recycling systems.”

Furthermore, the group shared two peer-reviewed journal articles that it said “more accurately highlight the global roles and responsibilities, including those of western nations, in stopping ocean plastic pollution and the needed, holistic solutions that are founded on principles of a circular economy”, titled, “Evaluating scenarios toward zero plastic pollution ( published in the journal Science ,Vol. 369, Issue 6510, 23. July 2020), and “The United States’ contribution of plastic waste to land and ocean (published in Science Advances , Vol. 6, No. 44, 30. October 2020)


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