Save Our Seas 2.0

On October 1st 2020, the U.S. Senate passed, unanimously, the Save Our Seas (SOS) 2.0 Act. This bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senators, Sheldon Whitehouse (D – Rhode Island), Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska), and Bob Menendez (D – New Jersey) in an effort to address the growing issue of plastic debris that threatens the health of our oceans and waterways. SOS 2.0 is a more forceful and extensive version of the first Save of Seas Act, which was signed into law in October 2018. With more than 8 million metric tons of plastic globally entering our oceans every year, SOS 2.0 aims to set targets and implement the steps necessary for extensive plastic waste reductions, enabling the U.S. significantly to reduce plastic pollution in our waterways and the world’s oceans. 

The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act has three key components: 

  1. Bolstering the United States’ domestic marine debris response capability with a Marine Debris Foundation, a genius prize for innovation and funding for research to tackle the issue. Although all separate additions, the hope is that by adding systematic focus and funding on marine debris response it will encourage innovations in plastic waste management in our waterways.  
  1. Expanding and strengthening the United States’ global engagement in combating marine debris. This includes formalizing U.S. policy on international cooperation, increasing federal agency international outreach, and exploring possible international agreements.
  1. Increase in studies of and new grants for waste management and mitigation as a way to improve domestic infrastructure in marine debris prevention. 

To prevent more plastic from polluting our oceans, there must be active efforts to decrease production of new plastics, increased funding for existing technologies that reuse plastics, expand and improve waste management and increased regulations on recycling efforts. The Save our Seas 2.0 Act is creating some of the initial steps towards a United States that meets all the requirements for a plastic waste free futurePrior to being voted on in the Senate, this bipartisan legislation was reviewed and approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee. The bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator to submit to Congress within a year “a report describing the most efficient and effective economic incentives to spur the development of additional new end-use markets for recycled plastics, including plastic film and the use of increased recycled content by manufacturers in the production of plastic goods and packaging.” Within two years of the legislation’s enactment, the EPA Administrator must work with the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to identify steps to minimize the creation of new plastic waste. 

“This legislation takes important steps to protect our coastal waters that support everything from fishing and recreation to trade through our ports and harbors” said Senator Menendez. A huge step forward, SOS 2.0 brings the United States closer to tackling the marine plastic pollution that threatens our waterways. The unanimous bipartisan nature of the legislation demonstrates how protecting our environment is of great importance to all Americans and while it is incredibly promising, there is a still a long way to go before our seas are properly saved.  

As the Maritime Industry takes necessary steps to combat climate change and move towards creating future sustainable practice, NAMEPA continues to be dedicated to preserving the marine environment by promoting sustainable maritime industry practices and educating the public on the importance of the health of our waterways. NAMEPA believes that the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act will increase sustainable practicesbringing us all towards a better, cleaner future. To that end, we are meeting with Senator Sullivan’s office this week to identify areas of collaboration.  

 

The North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) is a marine industry-led organization of environmental stewards preserving the marine environment by promoting sustainable marine industry best practices and educating seafarers, students and the public about the need and strategies for protecting global ocean, lake and river resources.

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