Our oceans are choking in plastic, and half-measures are inadequate

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into our oceans. That’s the equivalent of one garbage truck load of petrochemical slop dropped every minute of every day into the sea.

Even when it’s out of sight, even if it is no part of a Pacific garbage patch that is twice the size of Texas, it affects our lives. Plastic doesn’t decompose, so it fragments into particles that pollute the food chain. It poisons birds, kills marine life, and jeopardizes human health. Plastic has been found in 59 percent of sea birds, 100 percent of sea turtles, and more than 25 percent of fish sampled from markets all over the world.

It is choking our planet, from the remotest Arctic to the depths of the Mariana Trench.

It’s time to take giant steps toward solving this crisis, and banning plastic straws alone won’t get it done.

So a bipartisan group of Senators is taking another crack at it, trying to build off the momentum from an initiative that even President Trump supported last year. The question is whether they are addressing the essential aim of reducing plastic production and consumption.

The first Save Our Seas Act, signed by Trump last October, extended the Marine Debris Program, and provided funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for major cleanup efforts.

The new bill, known as Save Our Seas 2.0, will enhance that program. It will also upgrade our country’s recycling infrastructure by exploring new uses for plastic waste and keep it from entering the oceans, while financing research for technologies that could repurpose used plastic into more useful things.

It also proposes new measures to bolster international cooperation to address marine debris, which is why New Jersey’s Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is one of the three primary sponsors.

These are all good things.

But as some experts point out, the bill does nothing to reduce the generation of plastic.

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