Scientists estimate that four to 12 million metric tons of plastic trash enter the oceans each year.

In an executive show of support for ocean conservation, President Trump signed the Save our Seas Act last week and pledged to support national marine debris cleanup.

In comments made during the ceremony, Trump focused on holding the nations that contribute the most plastic waste to the oceans accountable for their global impact.

“I’ve seen pictures recently, and some of you have seen them, where there’s a vast, tremendous, unthinkable amount of garbage is floating right into our coast, in particular along the West Coast,” Trump said. “As President, I will continue to do everything I can to stop other nations from making our oceans into their landfills.”

Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where it washed ashore. (Susan White/USFWS)

Bipartisan Agreement on Ocean Legislation

The legislation received unanimous, bipartisan support in the Senate. Republican Senator Dan Sullivan and Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse both joined Trump in the Oval Office for the presidential approval.

Domestically, the bill reauthorizes programming done by the National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration for the subsequent five years. The NOAA has the ability to declare a “severe marine debris event” which facilitates the organization of resources and assistance when a coordinated cleanup is necessary.

Severe storms on the coastline, such as Hurricane Sandy in 2017, often call for large scale cleanup such as this.

A crayon drawing by Ioanna S., (Grade 4, New York) created as part of NAOO’s Marine Debris Program.

Scientists estimate that four to 12 million metric tons of plastic trash enter the oceans each year, according to a Jambeck study in 2015.

China Will No Longer Import Plastics for Recycling

The dominant contributors to ocean waste are countries in Southeast Asia, where many developed countries outsource their plastic. Through the end of 2016, China took in 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste but stopped accepting imported plastics for recycling in 2017.

This policy could displace up to 111 million metric tons of plastic waste by 2030, according to a study published this June, leaving the oceans vulnerable to act as a dumping ground.

According to the study, imports of plastic trash are on the rise in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand since China’s moratorium went into effect.

During the presidential bill signing, Senator Whitehouse stated that the administration is working to include marine debris prevention in the trade agreement with the Philippines.

“It takes six months and a year to float over, but it gets here, and it’s a very unfair situation,” President Trump remarked about the plastic waste reaching American coastlines. “It’s also unbelievably bad for the oceans.”

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