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The Transition | December 2023
People and progress in solving the ocean plastic crisis

About OpenOceans Global. Our work centers on mapping ocean plastic, curating the best solutions, and linking together a community of ocean plastic experts and leaders. Learn more on the Weather Channel's Pattrn interview, NBC7/39's Down to Earth segment, and ArcNews.

Past issues of The Transition



Congratulations: Jack and Laura Dangermond, the founders of Esri, were awarded the United Nations Foundation’s Global 17 Innovation in Partnership Award in recognition of their efforts in developing mapping technology to identify and address global issues. The Dangermonds have worked for years to foster global partnerships for sustainable development, and OpenOceans is proud of its longstanding relationship with Esri.

Thank you for continuing to read The Transition. We wish you the very best this holiday season and ask that you support us with an end-of-year donation.

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Please support our important work.

OpenOceans Global is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.



Did you know?

2/3 of plastic waste is only used once, and 2 billion people don’t have access to waste management.


Taking a Deeper Dive

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Image credit: www.CartoonStock.com

2023 Year in Review: Addressing Plastic Pollution

In each issue, Deeper Dive provides in-depth articles based on well-researched facts from reliable sources. From coverage on the progress of the UN Plastic Treaty to articles about plastic recycling, wish-cycling, chemicals, and polymers of concern to a review of the Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard, the Deeper Dive presents our understanding of the best information needed to keep plastic out of the ocean. Deeper Dive excerpts are now available on our blog. In this issue, we take a look at progress in 2023, an important year for addressing the ocean plastic crisis. See some highlights below.

2023 Global Plastic Pollution Highlights

#1. The G7 commits to ending plastic pollution by 2040. In an April 16 statement, the G7 member countries committed to ending plastic pollution by 2040. The G7 commitments include taking steps to reduce microplastics, addressing the phase-outs of non-recyclable plastics and "harmful" additives, and the endorsement of the global plastics treaty talks. The G7 includes seven of the world's advanced economies; Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union.

#2. The second round of United Nations Plastic Treaty Talks in Paris, France, produced a “zero draft” of the treaty as a starting point for negotiations. It took three days of discussion about how to make decisions before real negotiations could begin. The issue was not resolved. In October, the third round of plastic treaty talks (INC3) was held in Nairobi, Kenya. Some progress was made, but a series of either/or options emerged, including whether to focus on global enforceable regulations or national plans, as well as, whether to eliminate plastic production or recycle all plastic through a circular economy.

Note: OpenOceans believes the discussions must shift to an “AND” position. Both global enforceable regulations and national plans to implement them are needed. A significant reduction in plastic production and recycling as much as possible are both imperative.

#3. CSIRO released a study on plastic in the food supply. Microplastics and nanoplastics are pervasive in our food supply. According to a new study led by CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, they may be affecting food safety and security on a global scale.

#4. UNEP releases a technical report – Chemicals in Plastic. The report provides the state of knowledge of chemicals in plastics and, based on compelling scientific evidence, calls for urgent action to address chemicals in plastics as part of the global action on plastic pollution.

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Image credit: UNEP

#5. REDUCE Act reintroduced in Congress. The Rewarding Efforts to Decrease Unrecycled Contaminants in Ecosystems (REDUCE) Act was first introduced in 2021 to create an incentive “to recycle plastic and help reduce plastic waste that is disrupting coastal economies, overwhelming ecosystems and threatening public health.” It was reintroduced in 2023.

#6. The Plastic Pollution Coalition published The Global Plastic Laws Database. In partnership with Break Free from Plastic Europe, the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, and Surfrider U.S., this project created an extensive database and resource library to research, track, and visualize plastic legislation that has been passed around the world.

#7. Beyond Plastics published a report in December, Chemical Recycling: A Dangerous Deception. The report asserts chemical recycling technology hasn’t worked for decades, is still failing, and threatens the environment, the climate, human health, and environmental justice.

#8. The National Academies of Science published Recycled Plastic in Infrastructure. The report takes an in-depth look at how plastic waste can be recycled for use in transportation infrastructure. The results show promise, but many challenges must be overcome before progress can be made.

The activities above, while not comprehensive, paint a picture of the progress being made. OpenOceans Global remains steadfast and committed to stopping the flow of plastic into our world’s oceans.

OpenOceans’ top five achievements in 2023

#1. United Nations Recognition. The United Nations Environmental Programme has awarded OpenOceans Global accredited observer status and in 2023 invited us to join a select group to provide comments to help shape the treaty. In addition, we contributed an outline for a simplified treaty structure and examples of clear language usage.

#2. Artificial Intelligence. OpenOceans began exploring a new way to identify plastic-fouled beaches using artificial intelligence and satellite imagery. More to come in 2024.

#3. White Paper: The Ocean Plastic Crisis – Mapping Source to Sea was published and shared with universities, corporations, and media.

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#4. Media Highlights. The Weather Channel’s Pattrn program interviewed OpenOceans about the impact of plastic on the environment, and our story is featured in a new book, Addressing Earth’s Challenges by Esri Press.

#5. The Transition newsletter took first place in an Excellence in Journalism Awards competition. Every month, The Transition recognizes global experts and leaders who show the intelligence and thoughtfulness to make a difference in solving the ocean plastic crisis. We also continue to spotlight global beaches fouled by plastic and curate a list of the most promising solutions.

Looking forward to 2024. Together, we can stop the flow!


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Image credit: Six Chix / Isabella Bannerman

Tracking Plastic News

  • Coldplay is teaming up with an innovative company to protect our oceans. The Cool Down, December 13, 2023
  • NAPCOR: Pet Bottle Recycling holds steady, Plastics News, December 13, 2023
  • Congress proposes nationwide ‘Farewell to Foam' legislation, Plastics News, December 8, 2023
  • Germany’s plastic recycling rate set new record in 2022. Plastics News, December 5, 2023
  • NOAA publishes Marine Debris Emergency Response Guide, NOAA, December 2023
  • Chemical recycling needed to hit sustainability targets in Europe, study says, Plastics News, November 20, 2023
  • Sweden opens state-of-the-art plant for sorting plastics for recycling, AP News, November 15, 2023






Help Locate Plastic-Fouled Coastlines

Each month we share an image of a beach fouled by plastic.  To report a shoreline pervasively fouled by significant amounts of plastic debris, use our online plastic trash reporting app. Thank you!

This Month’s Coastal Hotspot: Zanzibar, Tanzania

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Image credit: Stacker / Evgeniya Turanenko / Shutterstock  

According to The Globe and Mail, “Zanzibar has experienced the grave effects of poor waste management and – like many places in the monsoon zone – its people have struggled with this ever-growing problem. In the rainy season, huge amounts of plastic rubbish wash up on its shores, often from the illegal dumpsites that have mushroomed all over the island. Some of the trash ends up in the ocean, harming wildlife.” In addition, sewage systems are few, and the ones they have dump waste from the cities directly into the ocean. Increased tourism has left the area, unable to keep up with the waste generated, and plastics from the sea regularly wash up on the beaches.


Solutions to the Ocean Plastic Crisis

See more solutions on our ocean plastic solutions page. Have a solution we should know about? Submit it here.

This Month's Featured Solution: Blueview Footwear

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Image credit: Blueview Footwear

Blueview Footwear claims its biodegradable shoes are the first of their kind. Made from algae oil that won’t hurt the planet or pollute our oceans, the shoes’ eco-conscious materials don’t sacrifice durability for environmental responsibility. According to Blueview, the shoes stand up to the same high-quality standards as traditional footwear but don’t end up as floating trash in the ocean or give off harmful microplastics like shoes made from petroleum plastics. Soleic, the name given to the plant-based oils used to make Blueview shoes, was designed at a molecular level to handle the strains and stresses of everyday use before readily breaking down in compost and soil.


Meet the Experts and Leaders

OpenOceans Global is identifying ocean plastic experts from around the world. Here are two experts leading efforts to reduce plastic pollution that you should know about.

Carlos Silva Filho, President, International Solid Waste Association

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Image credit: ISWA

Carlos Silva Filho is the president of the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), with a mission of promoting and developing sustainable and professional waste and resource management worldwide. In addition to his role at ISWA, Silva Filho is a Brazilian lawyer specializing in administrative & economic law. He started working in the waste industry in 1999 as legal advisor at the Brazilian Association of Waste Management Companies (ABRELPE). In regard to the international plastic treaty, he says, “Prioritizing upstream waste management should bring minimum standards, but they must be tailored to local conditions. In the end, anything that will be decided must be implemented at the local level,” Silva Filho says. “We need to be sure the right governance and finance systems are in place and will need a knowledge hub to co-develop effective implementation.” A prolific author, his works include the book "Solid Waste: what the law says” and “Solid Waste Framework in Brazil.” He also co-edited the book “Effective Waste Management and Circular Economy.” He is a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Zero Waste, the Steering Committee for the Global Waste Management Outlook, the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Waste Outlook, developed by UNEP, and the Steering Committee of the Coalition for the progressive Closure of Dumpsites in Latin America and the Caribbean. He also coordinated the Brazilian National Solid Waste Plan, Planares, in 2022 and was the general coordinator and implementer of several projects related to waste management, waste strategies, regulation, public-private partnerships, and marine litter. He received his law specialist degree from the Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie.

Sarah Nelen, Green Deal Advisor to the Director-General, European Commission’s Department for the Environment

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Image credit: European Commission

Sarah Nelen is the Green Deal Advisor to the Director-General in the European Commission’s Department for the Environment. Until the summer of 2023, she was the Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans at the European Commission, responsible for the Green Deal, the EU’s growth strategy to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and to promote biodiversity and a circular economy. Sarah has almost 20 years of experience in European policymaking, mainly in the areas of sustainability, justice and home affairs. Before joining Timmermans’ team, she was Head of Unit in the European Commission's Environment Department, where she was responsible for waste management and secondary materials and negotiated the EU’s single-use plastic legislation. Nelen is a regular contributor at conferences and webinars addressing plastic pollution. “We are very much aware that we are not going to recycle ourselves out of the problem,” Nelen says, adding that “textiles are the new plastics.” She was ranked by Politico Europe as a Commission staffer “who has been in more important meetings and has acted as links between important people more than the rest.” From 2010 to 2014, she was part of the team of the first permanent President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy where she coordinated relations with the Commission and was in charge of the President’s strategic agenda management. Before joining the European Commission in 2001, she was a researcher at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, where she previously obtained a Masters in Political Science. She also studied at the Facultés Universitaires Saint Louis in Brussels and the University of Leicester. She is a College of Europe alumnus.


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OpenOceans Global is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.


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