Two lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced legislation that aims to reduce marine debris and plastic waste in the ocean.

The Partnering and Leveraging Assistance to Stop Trash for Cleaner Seas Act (PLASTICS Act), introduced by Republican Michael McCaul and Democrat Eliot Engel, will advance efforts to work with foreign governments and local communities to develop integrated waste management systems to effectively prevent and reduce plastic waste. It encourages federal departments and agencies to work with entities in the private sector and with nongovernmental organizations to leverage private and public capital to complement United States assistance programs. It supports local economic development through programs that assist community members, particularly women, youth, and marginalized populations, to derive economic benefit from waste products and participation in waste management systems. It also urges U.S. leadership in international and regional efforts to prevent and reduce marine debris and plastic waste.

The proposed legislation supports the commitments that the United States made at the 2018 Our Ocean Conference and the 2019 G20 Summit to achieve measurable benchmarks in preventing marine debris from entering the ocean and reduce plastic pollution.

According to McCaul:

“Millions of tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans every year that damages marine ecosystems, threatens global food supplies, endangers health systems and impedes economic growth. Approximately ninety percent of this waste comes from just ten river systems. Eliminating plastic waste in our oceans will require a coordinated global response that is practical, innovative and measurable. The PLASTICS Act will leverage U.S. foreign assistance dollars and promote public-private partnerships to support the development of integrated waste management systems in developing countries. Building the capacity of local and national governments to more effectively manage waste, as well as elevating market-based solutions to these complex issues, will be crucial to the global effort to clean up our oceans. I am proud to spearhead this bipartisan initiative in Congress and will continue working to protect our valuable shared resources on a global scale.”

Engel said:

“Millions of tons of plastic wind up in our oceans every year, causing serious harm to our health and environment. The United States is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of plastic products and the top exporter of plastic scrap—we have a critical role to play in addressing this issue. This legislation puts us on the right track to remedy this rapidly growing problem.”

Specifically, the PLASTICS Act would help:

* Prevent and reduce marine debris and plastic waste, including through reduced consumption, greater transparency in global trade of plastic waste, and support for integrated waste management systems in developing countries;
* Advance market-based solutions to support integrated waste management systems and improve market demand for recycled materials;
* Build the capacity of national governments and local communities to develop and implement integrated waste management systems;
* Support local economic development through programs that assist community members, particularly women, youth, and marginalized populations, to derive economic benefit from waste products and participation in waste management systems;
* Establish monitoring mechanisms and measurable goals to ensure the effective use of United States foreign assistance;
* Elevate U.S. participation in international and regional efforts to prevent and reduce marine debris and plastic waste.

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