Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled, “Cleaning Up the Oceans: How to Reduce the Impact of Man-Made Trash on the Environment, Wildlife, and Human Health?”

The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist of the National Geographic Society; The Honorable Cal Dooley, president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council; Bruce Karas; vice president of Environment and Sustainability at Coca-Cola North America; and Dr. Kara Lavender Law research professor of Oceanography at the Sea Education Association.

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today, the committee will examine the issue of made-man trash that is polluting the oceans, also known as marine debris. 

“While marine debris can range from metals, glass, rubber, paper, and textiles, the vast majority of marine debris is plastic.

“Plastic plays an incredibly important role in our lives.

“As a doctor, I’ve seen firsthand that plastic is indispensable in the field of medicine and health care.

“Similarly, plastic is crucial in virtually every aspect of modern society and economy, including in the field of environmental protection.

“That doesn’t mean, of course, that plastics should end up in our rivers, in our lakes, in our streams, and in our oceans.

“It is estimated that around 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans each year.

“While some of this plastic is dumped directly into the ocean –like discarded fishing nets –most of the plastic flows from rivers.

“Experts believe that about ninety percent of all plastic pollution flows into the oceans from just 10 rivers – eight of which are in Asia.

“It is estimated that Asia contributes to about 80 percent of all ocean plastic.

“Specifically, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are responsible for more plastic pollution than the rest of the world combined.

“By now, many Americans have heard of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch.’

“This is an area of the Pacific Ocean where currents have concentrated plastic and other man-made trash.

“It now stands as the world’s largest concentration of marine debris.

“Similar debris concentrations exist elsewhere throughout the world.

“In fact, plastic has been found in almost all corners of the ocean.

“Plastic takes at least 450 years to degrade completely –sometimes much longer than that.

“In the meantime, this debris will continue to entangle and kill marine wildlife as well as threaten human health.

“If little is done to stem the accumulation of plastic in the ocean, experts believe that, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, as measured by weight.

“Earlier this summer, National Geographic dedicated its June issue to this problem.

“It is a remarkable cover where it looks like an iceberg but it’s actually an upside down plastic bag. It’s a remarkable effort by National Geographic to display something that we know is a major problem.

“It explained that ‘some people see ocean plastic as a looming catastrophe, worth mentioning in the same breath as climate change.’

“I’m glad that Dr. Jonathan Baillie, National Geographic’s executive vice president and chief scientist, is able to join us here today.

“Environmentalists aren’t alone in recognizing this problem.

“Plastic manufacturers also acknowledge we need to address this problem.

“Earlier this summer, another one of our witnesses today –Cal Dooley –announced that he would extend his tenure atop the American Chemistry Council to ‘fight the spread of mismanaged plastic waste…[and] help lay the foundation for a sustained, global industry effort to address it.’

“Likewise, Coca-Cola –which is also represented here today and is one of the world’s biggest producers of plastic bottles –has taken steps to confront this problem.

“In January of this year, Coca-Cola announced that it would ‘help collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one [it] sell[s] by 2030.’

“Today, the committee will want to hear what more can and should be done.

“Specifically, we want to know what private industry, what local and state governments, what the federal government, and what international institutions should do to address this crisis.

“I’d like to point out that today’s hearing follows one that Senator Sullivan held as chairman of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife in May of 2016.

“It also follows the efforts as well as those of Senator Whitehouse to pass the Save Our Seas Act – which I understand is under consideration as we speak.

“I want to thank them for their leadership on this issue.

“If either of you would like to say a few words after Ranking Member Carper, you’re welcome to do so.

“This issue is also important to the ranking member, to whom I now turn for his opening comments.”