Ocean Plastics

Ocean Plastics

Consumers and industry play vital parts in keeping waste out of oceans

IBWA recognizes and supports efforts to reduce plastic use and educate consumers about ways they can help keep waste out of our oceans and litter off our shorelines.

Of all the plastic waste in the World’s oceans, only a very small amount of it originates as litter. But this amount can be significantly reduced if industry continues its innovative efforts to lightweight its plastic bottles and consumers increase their efforts to recycle their empty bottled water containers.

A common misperception is that bottled water plays a significant role in ocean plastic pollution, but the facts show differently. Bottled water is one of thousands of food and beverage products packaged in plastic. And in the past 10 years, the bottled water industry has achieved tremendous plastic resin reduction usage through lightweighting its containers.

Bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable –– even the caps. People should always recycle by first emptying their bottles of all liquid and then replacing the caps before placing them in a recycle bin. PET plastic (which is used for most small-pack bottled water products) is a valuable material and should not be wasted in landfills.

The biggest contributor to ocean trash is mismanaged waste, which is essentially garbage that is thrown directly into rivers by countries that lack waste management systems.

Published research from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ identifies the largest sources of ocean plastic pollution: 90 percent of it originates from 10 major river systems in developing regions. Eight of these rivers are in Asia, and two are in Africa. This research by Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist, supports IBWA’s view that restricting the sale of bottled water in North America –– which has both waste management and recycling systems –– will have little or no impact on the ocean plastic issue.

Supporting research by University of Georgia Professor Jenna Jambeck found that approximately 83 percent of ocean plastic waste comes from just 20 countries, with China being the highest contributor, at 2.43 million metric tons of plastic waste per year. The United States is responsible for 0.07 million metric tons per year.

Mismanaged waste in Asia and Africa are the biggest contributors to ocean pollution on a global scale, but at home and on-the-go, it is important for consumers to always recycle to help ensure PET plastic is reused.
To help combat the ocean plastics issue, IBWA is working with its partner Keep America Beautiful to educate consumers about the importance of recycling.

How can you help?

Littering is a human behavior issue that you can play a role in helping to end. Always remember to “Put It In The Bin!” Consumers have the power to ensure their empty containers end up in the recycle stream—and not as litter or waste in a landfill. While research shows that litter makes up only a very small portion of ocean waste, it’s still important to do the right thing and dispose of empty bottled water containers responsibly. Single-serve PET containers are 100 percent recyclable (including the caps), and should always be placed in the recycling bin.

Useful links about ocean plastics: