COLLABORATION AMONG PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS

Interstate cooperation is crucial in the fight against plastic in the United States

#environmental sustainability #social action #society

According to a recent study conducted by the Baykeeper of the bi-state area, there are usually at least 165 million plastic items floating in the Port of New York and the New Jersey Estuary. The Plastic Free Waters Partnership is a pioneering initiative that is fighting to get rid of plastic in coastal waters. It is made up of organizations from the educational and public sectors, NGOs and private companies that share a common goal: the eradication of plastic waste from their waters.

The data contributed by international organizations give cause for concern: According to the World Economic Forum, by the year 2025 there will be one ton of plastic per three tons of fish. Eight million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the sea every year. At this rate, says the United Nations, by 2050 there will be more pollution than fish globally.

In the United States, one extremely complex area in terms of plastic waste, due to its geographical features and high-density population, is the area shared by the states of New York and New Jersey. This is where the Plastic Free Waters Partnership operates. It is a collaborative initiative whose participants are the general public, private companies, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions and public bodies that share a common goal: to reduce plastic waste and microplastics in all bodies of water in the bi-state area.

New York and New Jerseys shared water bodies.#RRSSNew York and New Jersey's shared water bodies.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: New York and New Jersey's shared water bodies [PDF]

To do this, the initiative organizes seminars, surveys and carries out field work through its partners and members to accomplish important educational and training work. The regional administration of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves of these initiatives: "Our oceans, lakes and rivers are saturated with plastic waste. These projects offer solutions that reduce waste at source."

PLASTIC-FREE WATERS

In 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency launched the Trash-Free Waters program with a clear objective: to reduce the volume of waste contaminating the country's waters. Most of this plastic waste consists of ordinary items consumed by millions of people every day, therefore the EPA's strategy is based on raising awareness of the damage they are doing to the environment, to fauna and flora and also to health. Organized by region, the Trash-Free Waters initiative was a catalyst for identifying work groups, associations and organizations that make up the Plastic Free Waters Partnership, an initiative that has been collaborating with the Agency since it was formally created in 2017.

The types of plastic that pollute bodies of water.#RRSSThe types of plastic that pollute bodies of water.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The types of plastic that pollute bodies of water [PDF]

These days, Plastic Free Waters has more than 50 members from very different sectors — from Cafeteria Culture, which arranges coffee meetings, to the Environmental Protection Agency of New Jersey, a state organization — focused on broadcasting the same message and reducing the use of plastics at source. It also produces educational resources and up-to-date information on the fight against plastic waste on its website, and often holds events in both states.

Fight against plastic. Cath Lord Plastik! Join.

SEVEN ENEMIES TO BEAT

The Plastic Free Waters Partnership categorizes its activities, publications and educational programs into areas based on the seven most polluting plastic items: Microplastics, bags, bottles, polystyrene trays and elements, drinking straws, cigarette filters and balloons, simplifying the message and focusing on activities in the New York and New Jersey area.

 Microplastics
Microscopic or up to 5 mm in diameter, they are the product of decomposition of larger plastics caused by ultraviolet radiation, wind and water. Plastic Free Waters shares information about this problem and works to reach agreements with producers, manufacturers and legislators on the subject.

 Plastic bags
Member of Plastic Free Waters — both NGOs and governmental organizations — have launched several initiatives to discourage the use of plastic bags in the New York and New Jersey area.

 Plastic bottles
For the first time, sales of bottles of mineral water have overtaken those of carbonated drinks in the United States (2018). However, the percentage of recycling is low. In New York and New Jersey, the initiative looks for alternatives and launches sustainable state policies.

 Polystyrene containers
These are commonly used by fast food restaurants, schools, etc. Plastic Free Waters is spreading the word about the dangers of this material to health and the environment, and the sustainable alternatives that are available.

 Drinking Straws
Work with restaurant associations in New York and elsewhere enables users and citizens to understand how these materials are damaging the environment. Associations from the initiative create success stories, educational materials and information that help to reduce the use of drinking straws in the area.

 Cigarette filters
They are tossed on the pavement and washed into the sewers by rainwater, before reaching rivers and seas. Several cities in both states, including New York City, have banned smoking on the beach, but this is just the first step for Plastic Free Waters.

 Balloons
These are dangerous to local species like turtles and to birds such as pelicans, so raising citizen awareness is essential for Plastic Free Waters.

AN INITIATIVE BASED ON COLLABORATION

The success of the Plastic Free Waters Partnership lies in collaboration among different public and private, educational and non-governmental organizations. Frequent participants in the initiative include academics, volunteers and professionals from widely varying areas of activity and geographic zones.

They create specific work groups to deal with problems according to the type of pollutant and they start up ex profeso activities and initiatives for each location and the characteristics of the population to achieve better use of resources. The result is more success in the fight against plastic pollution. What's the challenge? Pollution-free waters in ten years.