American Chemistry MattersA Blog of the American Chemistry Council

American Chemistry Matters

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Important conversations about plastics are taking place

This week, world leaders came together to focus attention and encourage action on important issues involving our oceans, including unsustainable fishing practices, ocean acidification and marine debris.

ACC’s CEO Cal Dooley was invited to speak about the plastics industry’s role in launching public-private partnerships and other cooperative action to prevent plastics from reaching our oceans.

Coinciding with the oceans conference, we released the annual update to our progress report which shows 185 separate programs launched by 60 plastics associations from 34 different countries to help combat marine debris. These programs include research, education, recycling and technologies that recover energy from non-recycled used plastics. Our work was recently recognized by the UNEP Global Partnership on Marine Litter. We believe it is an instructive model for other sectors, and we hope others will find their own way to contribute.

The global plastics industry initially launched the Global Declaration on Marine Litter at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in 2011. Originally signed by 47 plastics associations from regions across the globe, it recognized their important role in fighting marine debris and identified 6 key areas aimed at contributing sustainable solutions. Today, many of the programs plastics industry representatives from around the world have committed to focus on technology deployment that, for example,  allow us to recover energy from non-recycled plastics and best practice sharing on plastic recycling .

Next week, on June 24th, the conversation about plastics issues continues when I head to New York City to take part in the Plasticity Forum, an annual discussion about the future of plastics that brings together designers, brand owners, environmental groups and public and private sector leaders to discuss design solutions, material innovations, plastic recycling, and waste reduction with the aim of encouraging further innovations and collaborations between stakeholders.

We know that, every day, plastics allow us to do more with less. Innovations in plastic food packaging are extending the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables, feeding more people with less food waste, and getting more food from farm to table. Plastics also have a role in energy use and GHG emission reduction. In buildings, plastics enable cool reflective roofing, arguably the most effective insulation, and the films that capture solar energy. Plastics also make cars lighter so they use less fuel: today’s cars are 50% plastic by volume, but only 10% by weight.

Yet, when not properly recycled or recovered for their energy value, plastics can become part of the environmental burden being born by our open spaces and oceans.

I’m excited to be speaking at the upcoming Plasticity Forum to talk about the work we’re doing and how to create a more sustainable future, which is a goal we all share. I also look forward to hearing from our customers, colleagues from other sectors, and even our critics, as events like this have a way of leading to the breakthrough ideas that we’ll be talking about tomorrow.

We’re looking forward to contributing to the work ahead.

Learn more about the 2014 progress report and the plastics industry’s Global Declaration on Marine Litter.

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