You may have missed the news (as I did) that back in June, when the G-7 group of nations met in Canada, the United States, led by the Trump administration, opted not to sign a joint declaration to address the critical problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
Known as the “Ocean Plastics Charter”, it was signed at the G-7 summit by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. Japan also did not sign on. While the U.S. is not among the world’s worst plastic polluters–we are ranked 20th–, we are in close proximity to vast floating islands of plastic in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. And, of course, being a large nation, we generate a lot of plastic. As Philip Bump of the Washington Post reported back in June:
In other words, the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean — which is a problem, including because of the negative health effects on sea life — is more a function of the United States than any of the other member nations of the G-7. That, too, is a function of scale, but it doesn’t really matter. Like climate change, the United States contributes more than other major developed economies.
And yet, despite our obvious role in the production of plastic pollution and our large coasts and marine life and fisheries that suffer from it, the Trump administration was not interested in agreeing to a basic statement of plastic pollution reduction. Here is part of the charter’s language:
We resolve to take a lifecycle approach to plastics stewardship on land and at sea, which aims to avoid unnecessary use of plastics and prevent waste, and to ensure that plastics are designed for recovery, reuse, recycling and end-of-life management to prevent waste through various policy measures.
Seems a pretty rational, gradual approach to the problem. So what was the issue for the U.S. and Japan?
Trump and Co., in the end, left the summit in a huff and didn’t agree, at least by signature, with anything the G-7 group had discussed. Reducing plastic pollution in the oceans will not be addressed at the federal level for awhile, it seems, but the rest of us can begin to pull ourselves and the oceans out of our plastic civilization by using less and recycling more plastic.