Last Saturday, approximately 50 volunteers helped Alliance for a Living Ocean clean up various ocean beach and bay locations in Barnegat Light, amassing 30-plus 5-gallon buckets’ worth of debris. As ALO Executive Director Kyle Gronostajski noted, “Individual pieces of debris totaled into the thousands, with the large majority of them plastic."

Gronostajski, accordingly, joined U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in applauding passage of two key components of Save Our Seas 2.0, legislation to tackle the plastic pollution crisis threatening coastal economies and harming marine life. The senators introduced the three-part Save Our Seas 2.0 Act in June, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee passed two of the measures on Sept. 25. The third component is currently awaiting action by the Senate Commerce Committee.

“Any legislation to attempt to stem the amount of plastic pollution entering the ocean not only at home but globally is welcomed,” said Gronostajski. “We have to turn off the faucet and stop the flow into our waterways to make beach cleanups like those we conduct actually effective.”

As Menendez noted, “Our Jersey Shore attracts millions of visitors each year and our coastal waters support everything from fishing and recreation to trade through our ports and harbors. As we grapple with the implications of plastic waste, mostly from overseas, flooding our oceans and washing up on our shores, we must exercise our global leadership.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the Menendez-authored legislation, titled, in full, Save Our Seas 2.0: Enhanced Global Engagement to Combat Marine Debris Act, S. 2372.

The senator remarked, “As ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I’ve pushed to make sure that our strategy includes a real focus on using our foreign policy and international cooperation to combat plastic pollution abroad.” The committee action, Menendez added, moves that work “one big step forward.

Separately, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved another part of the measure, introduced as the Save Our Seas 2.0: Improving Domestic Infrastructure to Prevent Marine Debris Act, S. 2260.

“The Senate has a tradition of working in a bipartisan fashion to protect our oceans, and this week’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report emphasizes how important it is to repair ocean health,” said Whitehouse, who co-founded the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus to find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coasts. “The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act would put in place creative solutions on a global scale to further address the marine debris crisis.”

According to Menendez, roughly 8 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste enters the oceans each year. “Ninety percent of this plastic enters the oceans from 10 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.”

“While it is true that the great majority of debris entering our oceans is from abroad it is important to note that we are not free of guilt locally,” said Gronostajski. “Solving this problem by limiting the amount of plastic used and created falls to each of us in our daily lives. Think about all the areas you encounter single use plastics and search out alternatives – they do exist.”