This week the federal Save Our Seas of 2018 (S.O.S. Act) passed through Congress and was signed by the President. This is one of the only federal plastics bills that has passed the legislature in the past three years, after the bipartisan Microbead Free Waters Act passed in December of 2015. This bill offers needed funding for the NOAA Marine Debris Program that works on single-use plastics, fishing gear and net removal and on convening stakeholders, such as those that gathered at the 6th International Marine Debris Conference. The program is authorized to receive $10 million in funding per year through 2022. The bill also offers assistance for severe marine debris events, which may result from tsunamis and other major weather events. Specifically, it allows the NOAA Administrator to declare severe marine debris events and authorize funds to assist with cleanup and response. The governor of an affected state may request the NOAA Administrator make this declaration.
While this was a bipartisan bill authored by Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), the bill has been criticized for looking too much at other countries as the source of plastic pollution and ignoring the fact that much of the consumption of single-use plastic products and the fracking for natural gas that is used to make plastic takes place in the United States.
While there is plenty of amazing plastic pollution prevention legislation passing at the local and state level, the federal government has been slow to take action on plastic pollution. But the Surfrider Foundation stands committed to raising the voices of our grassroots advocates to be heard at every level of government; we are also committed to helping the good ideas that better our communities to bubble up to the federal level and make our nation a greater place. That is why we will continue to advocate for strong federal plastic pollution efforts and to be sure to tell the success stories that are coming from our active Chapter network.