Ocean Conservancy Report Shows Recycled Content Standards and Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes Can Bridge Plastic Collection Financing Gap

New “Plastics Policy Playbook” Offers Policy Solutions to Fund Waste Collection and Reduce Ocean Plastic Pollution

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ocean Conservancy, in partnership with the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, of which Keep America Beautiful® is a founding member, recently released the new “Plastics Policy Playbook: Strategies for a Plastic-Free Ocean.” Based on desk-side research, in-country workshops and robust financial modeling, the report is an in-depth guide to some of the most impactful public- and private-sector interventions available to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution in parts of the world most affected by the crisis.

“We are seeing unprecedented interest from government and business leaders alike in moving to a circular economy and addressing ocean plastic pollution; but with so many interventions needed – from bans to taxes to product redesign and everything in between – execution remains a challenge,” said Ocean Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones. “It is our hope that this document, rooted in data and research, will serve as a policy playbook for a key part of the systemic solution to ocean plastic.”

The new “Plastics Policy Playbook” builds on previous white papers published by Ocean Conservancy on the economics of plastic waste collection. In 2015, Ocean Conservancy released “Stemming the Tide,” which built on seminal research by Dr. Jenna Jambeck and her colleagues to find that 75% of the plastic in the ocean was never collected as part of a formal waste management system, and 60% originates from five focus countries in Asia – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. A second report, “The Next Wave,” identified that collection in these focus countries is largely underfunded and a net cost activity for most waste streams. Collection is not only key to stopping plastic pollution in the near term; it is also critical to building a circular economy, where materials are continually recovered and reused rather than becoming waste.

This third report offers further analysis of how to finance plastic waste collection so that plastic never ends up in the ocean. Key findings include:

  • In the five target countries, there is a net financing gap for plastic waste collection of between US $28 – $40 per ton.
  • To reduce the financing gap and make sure that all waste is collected, extended producer responsibility (often referred to as EPR), implemented through Packaging Material Fees – where producers pay fees depending on the amount of packaging material put on the market or their plastic recycling/recovery targets – can have the highest potential in reducing this gap, by up to 75%.
  • Increasing demand for recycled plastic through recycled content standards has a potential to reduce the existing collection financing gap by up to 34%.
  • Bans on problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics (specifically, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws and stirrers, plastic cups and lids, plastic cutlery, foam food containers, oxo-biodegradable plastic materials, PVC packaging, and primary microplastics) can improve collection by reducing the contamination of post-consumer waste streams.

“The findings reinforce what we’ve long suspected, which is that we need a suite of solutions to address the problem of ocean plastic, and everyone has a role to play,” said Chever Voltmer, plastics initiatives director at Ocean Conservancy. “The good news – as we’ve seen first-hand in developing this report with key partners from the Trash Free Seas Alliance – is that we are seeing both governments and the private sector ready and willing to do their part.”

Ocean Conservancy will launch the playbook on stage at an official side event of the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo, Norway, on Oct. 23.

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About Ocean Conservancy
Ocean Conservancy is working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

About Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program
Ocean Conservancy has led the fight for a clean, trash-free ocean since 1986, when the organization launched its first annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) on a beach in Texas. Since then, the ICC has expanded to over 150 countries and has mobilized millions of volunteers to remove more than 300 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways around the globe, all the while logging each item and building the world’s largest database on marine debris.

Recognizing that cleanups alone will not solve the growing ocean plastic crisis, Ocean Conservancy has leveraged that data and invested in additional science to better understand the sources of ocean plastic. In 2011, Ocean Conservancy convened leading researchers from around the world in an expert working group to establish a scientific baseline for the sources, fate and impact of plastics in our ocean. The groundbreaking study by Jambeck et al. (2015) published in Science, a key output from this group, offered the first estimate of annual plastic inputs into the ocean from land. In 2012, Ocean Conservancy launched the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, uniting conservationists, scientists and members of the private sector to work together for pragmatic, impactful solutions to the problem, such as the launch of Circulate Capital and Urban Ocean. In 2019, Ocean Conservancy assumed leadership of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to reduce the amount of lost and abandoned fishing gear entering the ocean and engage fishers on best practices. Learn more at oceanconservancy.org/trashfreeseas.

About the Trash Free Seas Alliance®
Launched by Ocean Conservancy in 2012, the Trash Free Seas Alliance® brings together thought leaders from industry, conservation and academia to create a forum for pragmatic, real-world collaboration focused on the measurable reduction of ocean trash. Alliance members commit to shared exploration of long-term strategies that improve ocean health by reducing or eliminating ocean trash. Visit the Trash Free Seas Alliance® webpage for more information.

About Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful strives to End Littering, Improve Recycling and Beautify America’s Communities. We believe everyone has a right to live in a clean, green and beautiful community, and shares a responsibility to contribute to that vision. The organization is driven by the work and passion of more than 600 Keep America Beautiful affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the collaborative support of corporate partners, social and civic service organizations, academia, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. Join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Donate and take action at kab.org