Today, Oceana campaign director Christy Leavitt testified before the House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, in a hearing titled “Marine Debris: Impacts on Ecosystems and Species.” In her testimony, Leavitt stressed that the plastic pollution crisis threatening our oceans’ future can only be solved if companies stop producing so much of it — and national policies are necessary to ensure they do so.
"The United States has often been an international leader on environmental issues, but unfortunately it’s falling behind other countries on addressing the plastics crisis,” Leavitt said. “U.S. cities, towns, counties and states are not waiting for federal action and are instead leading the way in regulating single-use plastics. The federal government should learn from these actions and implement national policies to stem the flow of plastic into our oceans."
Plastic never actually completely breaks down — it just fragments into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics, which act as magnets for harmful chemical pollutants that work their way into the food chain. Microplastics have now been found in everything from our water and beer to salt and honey. Scientists are still studying how this is affecting human health.
“Despite the ocean’s importance to life on Earth and the livelihoods of billions of people around the world, humanity has altered or destroyed marine ecosystems and driven marine species to the brink of extinction,” Leavitt said. “And now, as one scientist put it, the oceans are literally spitting plastic back at us with every wave.”
While industry frequently points to recycling as the answer to plastic pollution, Leavitt argued this is a distraction from the real solution. She pointed to the problems posed by waste-management options and the limited impact they can have when the plastics industry is growing so rapidly.
“Waste-management solutions have not adequately dealt with plastic pollution in the past and cannot realistically keep up with the rising rates of plastic production,” Leavitt said. “Only 9% of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled. Unless companies change course and reduce their use of plastic, more of it will inevitably end up in the ocean.”
Current projections show plastic production increasing at least fourfold between 2014 and 2050, leading to a threefold increase in the amount of plastic entering the ocean between 2015 and 2025.
Leavitt closed by emphasizing the need to stop plastic at the source, which local, state and federal governments have the power to do. “The solution to the plastic pollution problem is clear,” Leavitt said. “Reduce the amount of plastic produced and placed on the market. The United States should join with the rest of the world and follow the lead of cities and states around the country to regulate the production and use of single-use plastic.”
To read Leavitt’s full written testimony, please visit https://bit.ly/2moqzE0.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop plastic pollution, please visit usa.oceana.org/plastics