On December 1, 2021, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a report providing a “synthesis of the role of the United States both in contributing to and responding to global ocean plastic waste.” The report summarizes the amount of plastic produced in the US, which increased by “nearly 20-fold” over the last 50 years, and the amount of plastic waste generation in the country, which is the highest in the world (FPF reported). A further topic addressed is how plastic waste moves through the environment and is monitored. The report breaks down the plastic life cycle into six steps from production to waste in the ocean and gives a few examples of waste reduction policy interventions at each point. The authors highlight that the majority of US interventions have focused on waste management and clean-up, which are at the end of the plastic life cycle. However, to effectively reduce plastic waste generation, US plastic production must be reduced.  

NASEM calls for the United States to “create a coherent, comprehensive, and crosscutting federal research and policy strategy [to reduce plastic waste] that focuses on identifying, implementing, and assessing equitable and effective interventions across the entire plastic life cycle.” Additionally, the report recommends the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to undertake a national marine debris shoreline survey every five years. In addition, other federal agencies with jurisdiction over coasts and coastal waters are recommended to “establish new or enhance existing plastic pollution monitoring programs” using standardized, coordinated protocols. The report was commissioned by the US Congress when it passed the Save Our Seas Act 2.0 (FPF reported). 


Read More 

Matthew Savoca, et al. (December 3, 2021). “Plastic trash in the ocean is a global problem, and the US is the top source – a new report urges action.” The Conversation. 

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (December 1, 2021). “U.S. Should Create National Strategy by End of 2022 to Reduce Its Increasing Contribution to Global Ocean Plastic Waste, Says New Report.”  


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (November 2021). “Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste.” The National Academies Press. DOI: 10.17226/26132.