October 2, 2020

House Passes Whitehouse-Sullivan-Menendez Marine Debris Bill

Save Our Seas 2.0 addresses plastic debris washing up on American shores

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are applauding the passage of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act in the House of Representatives today. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act was introduced in June 2019 to address the plastic debris crisis threatening coastal economies and harming marine life.

The legislation seeks to help reduce the creation of plastic waste, find uses for the plastic waste that already exists to keep it from entering the oceans, spur innovation, and tackle the problem on a global scale. It builds on the initial progress secured by the Save Our Seas Act, which was sponsored by Whitehouse and Sullivan and signed into law by President Trump in 2018.

“We’re one significant step closer to stemming the rising tide of harmful plastic pollution that washes up on beaches and in fishing nets along every coast,” said Senator Whitehouse, who co-founded the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus to find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coasts. “I’m grateful to our oceans allies in the House who approved the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act with strong bipartisan support. With the success of the original Save Our Seas bill, and now this step for SOS 2.0, we will keep building on our success with 3.0 and other bills, until we have truly addressed the scourge of ocean plastic waste.”

“Save Our Seas 2.0, the most comprehensive marine debris legislation ever to pass the U.S. Senate, is now also the most comprehensive bill on the challenge to ever pass Congress,” said Senator Sullivan. “Our legislation will improve our nation’s ability to respond to marine debris events, lead to greater international cooperation on preventing trash from reaching the oceans, and spark innovation to manage and possibly even reuse plastic waste—all with the goal of protecting our pristine environment, fisheries, and coastal communities across our country and, particularly, in Alaska, which has more coastline than the rest of the Lower 48 combined. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are coming together to address a very important environmental challenge. I look forward to SOS 2.0 passing the Senate and moving onto the President’s desk for his signature, and continuing work on this important issue.”

“As marine debris and plastic waste continue to threaten public health and the economic prosperity of coastal communities, I’m so pleased to see our legislation take this giant step forward today,” said Senator Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Save Our Seas Act 2.0 will bolster U.S. capacities and leadership in the global effort against plastic pollution and I am committed to continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get it over the finish line and signed into law.”

Roughly eight million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste from land enters the oceans each year. Ninety percent of this plastic enters the oceans from ten 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 stretches of coastline. Plastic has been found in areas as remote as the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the ocean.

“We need to fundamentally change our reliance on plastics,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who sponsored the House version of the bill. “A problem this pervasive – a global problem of this magnitude – cannot be solved with a single bill. We cannot limit our action to removing existing plastic from the ocean, and we also cannot recycle our way out of plastic waste that ends up on our shores. We need comprehensive action. Save Our Seas 2.0 is a meaningful bill that builds on our foundation of bipartisan, bicameral efforts to strengthen the NOAA Marine Debris Program. We have significant work ahead of us to prevent marine debris, and I look forward to continuing to work with my House Oceans Caucus Co-Chair, Don Young, and our Senate Oceans Caucus colleagues to protect the health of our ocean.”

The Senate, which passed Save Our Seas 2.0 by unanimous consent in January, will need to approve technical changes made in the House before the bill can be sent to the President to be signed. The House version of the bill is sponsored by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Don Young (R-AK).

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