Update to Save Our Seas Act aims to reduce marine debris
© Image'in | stock.adobe.com

Update to Save Our Seas Act aims to reduce marine debris

Save Our Seas 2.0 Act will address the large amount of plastic waste in the ocean.


U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, and Don Young, R-Alaska, who serve as co-chairs of the House Oceans Caucus, have introduced an update to the Save Our Seas Act designed to strengthen efforts to remove and prevent marine debris. According to a news release from Bonamici’s website, the bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, H.R. 3969, will address the large amount of plastic in the ocean by improving the domestic cleanup and response to marine debris, incentivizing international engagement on the issue and strengthening domestic infrastructure to dispose of waste materials. 

This legislation builds on the Save Our Seas Act, which was signed into law last year. The new act would help to:

  • establish a Marine Debris Response Trust Fund for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to use in responding to marine debris events;
  • create a Marine Debris Foundation to encourage, accept and administer private gifts in connection with the activities and services of the NOAA Marine Debris Program;
  • authorize a prize competition to advance innovation in the removal and prevention of plastic waste;

  • direct federal agencies to work with foreign countries to improve capacity and operation of waste management systems;

  • require the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress assessing the potential for negotiating a new international agreement or creating a new forum to address marine debris and mandating the executive branch consider marine debris in negotiations of international agreements;

  • direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a strategy to improve waste management and recycling infrastructure, harmonize waste collection and recycling protocols, strengthen markets for recycled plastic and identify barriers to increasing the collection of recyclable materials; and

  • create a Waste Management Revolving Fund, Waste Management Infrastructure Grant program, Drinking Water Infrastructure Grant program, Wastewater Infrastructure Grant program, and Trash-Free Water Grant program to assist local waste management authorities in improving and deploying waste interceptor technologies.

The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is co-sponsored by Reps. Don Beyer, D-Virginia.; Ed Case, D-Hawaii; Sean Casten, D-Illinois; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania; Derek Kilmer, D-Washington; Rick Larsen, D-Washington; Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire; Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; and Francis Rooney, R-Florida. The Senate companion to the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act was introduced by Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; and Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), Washington, reports that it’s supportive of this new legislation. Steve Russell, vice president of ACC’s Plastics Division, says the association is excited to work with Congress on passing this bipartisan legislation. 

“America’s plastic makers strongly support the bill’s focus on repurposing our plastic resources, and on reinforcing U.S. leadership in working with other governments to share knowledge and improve infrastructure to better manage and recycle more plastic waste,” Russell says. “Plastic waste is a solvable challenge and this legislation will accelerate solutions in critical areas. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act supports scientists and agencies in studying innovative ways to repurpose used plastics, including converting used plastics into chemicals, feedstocks and other products for new manufacturing and studying ways to repurpose plastics in infrastructure projects, such as roads and bridges. We believe these actions will help accelerate progress toward a circular economy for plastics in the United States and abroad.

“Additionally, passage of this bill would create a revolving fund to strengthen domestic recycling,” he continues. “In 2018, America’s plastic makers established a goal of making all plastic packaging in the United States reusable, recyclable or recoverable by 2030 and for all plastic packaging to be reused, recycled or recovered by 2040. A collaborative effort—involving government, industry, recyclers and other stakeholders—will be critical to achieving these goals.”