Maine debris legislation passes U.S. Senate

Legislation aimed at reducing plastic waste in oceans has passed the U.S. Senate and now heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, introduced in June 2019, and already approved by the U.S. House, is two-fold. It would help reduce the creation of plastic waste and find uses for plastics already existing, to keep it out of oceans, spur innovation, and tackle the issue on a global scale.

Sponsors include Senators Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and Bob Mendendez, D-N.J.

Save Our Seas 2.0 passed the Senate first in January, but it wasn’t until Tuesday, Dec. 1, that the Senate was approved technical changes made in the House. The House version was sponsored by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore, and Don Young, R-Alaska.

The new legislation builds on the Save Our Seas Act sponsored by Sullivan and Whitehouse, which became law in 2018.

Sullivan called passage of the legislation historic. It proves that major bipartisan achievements on some of the biggest environmental challenges are possible, he said. It constitutes a whole-of-government approach to helping protect our pristine environment across the globe “and, particularly, in Alaska, which has more coastline than the rest of the Lower-48 combined.”

Bill sponsors said roughly 8 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste from land enters the oceans every year. Ninety percent of this plastic enters the oceans from 10 rivers, eight of which are in Asia. The plastic breaks down into tiny pieces that can enter the marine food chain and harm fish and wildlife and wash ashore on even the most remote coastline.