State Legislators Celebrate World Oceans Day with Continued Focus on Preventing Plastic Pollution
June 8, 2018
On World Oceans Day, coastal state legislators are ready to act on the threats that plastic pollution has on our oceans, economy, and coastal ways of life. This past year has seen a growth of awareness and attention to the issue of plastic pollution.
From reports of whale deaths due to plastic to the discovery of plastic at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and reports of the amounts of plastic in the oceans tripling by 2050, the effects of plastic in the oceans are far-reaching.
At the current rate, there could be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish by weight by 2050. Fish, sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals all ingest plastic each year. As these animals ingest plastics, it goes up the food chain. This means that the fish we are consuming have plastic in them and they can contain toxic chemicals that are by-products of plastic.
But the public health concerns of plastic pollution goes beyond the food that we eat. Plastics are derived from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas and therefore cause carbon emissions. By reducing our use of plastics, we not only are reducing the pollution going into our oceans, but we are lowering our carbon emissions associated with the extraction and production of plastics.
“Minimizing our use of plastics reduces pollution, lowers carbon emissions, and saves us money,” said Massachusetts State Representative Dylan Fernandes. “The oceans are what nourishes our coastal communities, and we have obligation to protect and sustain it for generations to come.”
NOAA reports that coastal communities alone provide 45 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product. Fisheries and coastal tourism are a critical economic component and in some states serve as one of the underpinnings of coastal states’ economies. Plastic pollution is threatening fishing industries and littering our beaches.
“Mainers harvest roughly more than 300 million pounds of seafood for human consumption every single year,” said Maine State Representative Mick Devin. “The state’s marine economy is worth over $1 billion and supports tens of thousands of jobs. Lobstermen, clammers and other harvesters have all expressed concern about the future of their industries. That’s why we must come together to address the increasing presence of marine debris, especially plastics consumed by organisms within the human food chain.”
For World Environment Day, Representatives Rick Hansen and Abe Hudson made commitments to convene study commissions to identify strategies for reducing and eliminating single-use plastics, identify ways to reduce plastic waste in state and local government facilities and to increase education and awareness of plastic pollution at the state and local level. There have been bills introduced in states such as New York to ban plastic bags as well as cities that are banning plastic straws. This year, states such as Connecticut considered legislation to study the impacts and possible solutions to microfibers.
In the coming year, we are excited to see what legislators will do with this momentum in their states’ fight against plastic. Legislators up and down the coasts, such as Representatives Devin and Fernandes, are committed to ensuring and healthy ocean and preventing plastic pollution for generations to come.