Towards Osaka Blue Ocean Vision - G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter

the United States

Actions and Progress on Marine Plastic Litter
Last Update : 2021/09/13

Policy framework

National Action Plan

– Brief description:
The United States does not currently have a national action plan specific to marine plastic litter. There are several national-level laws, as described in 2.2 “Legal Framework”, that provide a comprehensive legal framework to address marine plastic litter. Domestic legislation also created an inter-agency body (the U.S. Marine Debris Coordination Committee, described below), that ensures cooperation across U.S. agencies to address marine debris more broadly. Further, through NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, the U.S. has developed eleven sub-national marine debris action plans that identify and prioritize activities to reduce marine debris impacts, coordinate local level implementation, and help better understand the scope and scale of the issue in the U.S. coastal and marine environment. The NOAA Marine Debris Program also has a national level strategic plan that drives priorities and actions.

Legal framework

– Name:

  • U.S. Marine Debris Act
  • Clean Water Act (EPA)
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (EPA)
  • Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (EPA/NOAA/others)
  • Microbead-Free Waters Act (FDA)
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (EPA)
  • Rivers and Harbors Appropriations Act (Army Corps of Engineers)

– Brief description:

A. U.S. Marine Debris Act

  • The U.S. Marine Debris Act, originally passed in 2006, established a national Marine Debris Program within NOAA to identify, determine sources of, assess, prevent, reduce, and remove marine debris and address the adverse impacts of marine debris on the economy of the United States, marine environment, and navigation safety. The Act also set forth direction for the U.S. Coast Guard to address ship-based waste in accordance with MARPOL requirements.
  • In 2012, the Act was amended to include provisions for NOAA to address marine debris resulting from natural disasters and severe weather events, in recognition of the high volume of debris that can be caused by such events.
  • In 2018, the Act (renamed the “Save Our Seas Act”) was further amended to expand work across the U.S. government, most notably with the U.S. Department of State, to engage foreign governments, especially those of high marine debris source countries, to better address marine debris through strengthened solid waste management. The 2018 Act also mandated that the U.S. government consider addressing marine debris in all future trade agreements. (The Save Our Seas Act 2.0 was passed in December 2020 and is noted in Section D below)
  • The Act also created the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (IMDCC), the federal interagency coordinating body responsible for addressing marine debris. IMDCC is made up of six agencies named in the Marine Debris Act, led by NOAA, as the chair, and EPA as vice-chair. The Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior, and Department of State participate as members.
  • IMDCC is primarily responsible for sharing information, assessing and implementing best management practices, and coordinating interagency responses to everyday marine debris and severe marine debris events.
  • IMDCC ensures coordination of federal agency research priorities, monitoring techniques, educational programs, and regulatory actions.
  • IMDCC is also responsible for recommending priorities and strategies, both nationally and internationally, to identify, determine sources of, assess, reduce, prevent, and mitigate the adverse impact of marine debris on the marine environment, natural resources, and vessels.

B. Clean Water Act (EPA)

  • The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires each state to establish water quality standards for all bodies of water in the state. Water quality standards consist of the designated beneficial use(s) of a waterbody, plus a numerical or narrative statement identifying maximum concentrations of various pollutants that would not interfere with the designated use. Many states have established narrative criteria for trash or floatables, which inherently include plastic waste.
  • CWA also allows for states to list waters impaired by pollutants, including trash/plastic waste. Unless planned measures can be taken to address impairments, the Act requires that states or US EPA develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for those pollutants. Several states have trash-impaired waterbody listings.
  • The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulates some stormwater discharges from three potential sources: municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), construction activities, and industrial activities. Operators of these sources might be required to obtain an NPDES permit before they can discharge stormwater. A large number of NPDES permits have provisions addressing the stormwater nexus for trash entering waterways.
  • The Nonpoint Source Management Program requires states to develop nonpoint source management programs, and EPA has subsequently required updates for these programs. Trash is a pollutant that can be addressed through such programs, and nonpoint source grants authorized by Section 319 can be used to address trash pollution.

C. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (EPA)

  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) charges EPA to protect human health and the environment from potential hazards of waste disposal; conserve energy and natural resources; reduce the amount of waste generated; and ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner by establishing minimum national criteria for solid waste facilities. RCRA regulations are generally implemented by states and tribes and/or at the local level, with state, tribal or local governments having the option to put forth regulations that are more stringent than the national standards. These national standards are critically important to ensuring the sound management of solid waste nationwide. Facilities that do not meet these standards are considered open dumps that must close. EPA implements the conservation mandate in RCRA through its Sustainable Materials Management Program. Sustainable materials management (SMM) is a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively and effectively over their entire life cycles. By looking at a material’s entire life cycle, we can find new opportunities to reduce environmental impacts, conserve resources and reduce costs. Recycling and waste diversion programs also are primarily implemented at the state, tribal and local levels.

D. Save Our Seas 2.0 Act

The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is composed of three main pieces:

  • Strengthening the United States’ domestic marine debris response capability with a Marine Debris Foundation, a genius prize for innovation, and new research to tackle the issue.
  • Enhancing global engagement to combat marine debris, including formalizing U.S. policy on international cooperation, enhancing federal agency outreach to other countries, and exploring the potential for a new international agreement on the challenge.
  • Improving domestic infrastructure to prevent marine debris through new grants for and studies of waste management and mitigation.

E. Microbead-Free Waters Act

  • The Microbead-Free Waters Act prohibits the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads.
  • The law also applies to products that are both cosmetics and non-prescription drugs, such as toothpastes.

F. Toxic Substances Control Act

  • Under TSCA, EPA has the authority to require testing of new and existing chemical substances such as those that may be in plastic waste entering the environment, and subsequently the authority to regulate these substances.
  • While TSCA can potentially be used for the purpose of addressing risks specific to chemical substances that may be in plastic waste, to date EPA has not used the authorities in the Act to regulate plastic waste.

G. Rivers and Harbors Appropriations Act

  • The Rivers and Harbors Appropriations Act authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the discharge of materials of any kind into navigable waters under section 13.


The US Environmental Protection Agency announced a National Recycling Goal to increase the recycling rate in the US to 50% by 2030.



*There are no EPR or single use plastic policies at the national level. Solid waste management, including policies and measures on single use plastics or bottle deposit schemes, are determined and implemented at the state and local level.



Prevention and reduction of plastic waste generation

Regulation on microplastics

Names of actions:
Microbead-Free Waters Act

Brief description:

  • The Microbead-Free Waters Act prohibits the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads.
  • The law also applies to products that are both cosmetics and non-prescription drugs, such as toothpastes.



Environmentally sound waste management

Prevention of littering, illegal dumping and unintentional leakage of waste into the ocean

Names of actions:
EPA Trash Free Waters

NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention Grants

Brief description:
EPA Marine Litter Related Voluntary Work

  • Trash Free Waters – is a voluntary program that emphasizes stakeholder engagement to assist U.S. and international communities with addressing primarily land-based sources of marine litter. Within the United States, there have been well over 200 place-based projects that have been or are being implemented. These include projects addressing outreach/education, trash capture, source reduction efforts, monitoring, research, and more. Trash Free Waters also develops tools and resources that provide useful information to help stakeholders keep trash out of waterways . Tools include a best practices compendium so that municipalities, NGOs, and others can get information on costs and effectiveness of various management practices; a litter control policy and program document for the Gulf states ; a Trash Stormwater Permit Compendium outlining effective stormwater permit trash provisions for use by stormwater permit writers and stormwater planners; and a trash assessment protocol that allows for detailed characterization of trash pollution to inform management practices, permit provisions, and impaired waterbody listings; in addition to other information resources.
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

EPA works with businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations to promote the use and reuse of materials more productively over their entire life cycles. Partners demonstrate how they reduce waste, practice environmental stewardship and incorporate sustainable materials management into their business model, including their waste-handling processes.

NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention Grants

  • NOAA’s Marine Debris Program supports projects across the country that use outreach and education as a way to prevent marine debris. These projects aim to change behavior, especially among youth, and provide them with hands-on experiences that deepen their understanding of the marine debris problem. Additional projects support engagement with industry partners to reduce the loss of fishing gear, and the occurrence of abandoned and derelict vessels.

Marine Debris Act

  • Development of ten subnational (US state or regional) action plans to coordinate and spur local action to address marine debris.
  • Development of ten emergency response guides to aid local US authorities in preparing for severe marine debris events, from storms, hurricanes, etc., and to assist in faster responses to such events.


International Cooperation

  1. Waste Prevention & Strengthening Recycling (USAID)
    1. Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP) – USAID reduces land-based sources of marine plastic pollution by supporting local organizations through grants and technical assistance in Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to improve solid waste management and waste recycling efforts. Under MWRP, USAID has supported 30 grants focusing on three priority areas: 1) strengthening capacity of local actors and their collaboration, 2) introducing locally appropriate innovations and improving decision making, and 3) supporting engagement with the private sector for developing and implementing market-driven solutions to marine plastic pollution and strengthening the recycling value chain. The scope of the grants range from community-led awareness raising and education campaigns to improving working conditions of informal waste collectors, engaging and empowering women, collaborating with the private sector, and supporting local governments in their efforts to collect and manage waste sustainably.
    2. Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO) – Clean Cities Blue Ocean is USAID’s flagship, five-year, global program that works in 22 cities and towns across seven countries (Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Dominican Republic and Peru) to build and advance circular economies and reduce ocean plastic pollution. Through a combination of technical assistance and grants, CCBO works to improve solid waste management systems in cities and municipalities that are at the heart of the global plastic pollution crisis, build capacity and commitment for the 3Rs, and promote sustainable social and behavior changes. In support of these objectives, the program partners with local and multinational corporations to effectively leverage private sector expertise, investment and supply chains. Because they are a vital part of the waste value chain and key to the creation of a circular economy, CCBO also economically empowers informal waste collectors, especially women, building capacity, providing access to credit, and facilitating safe working conditions.
  2. Infrastructure Investment (USAID):
    1. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) partial loan guarantee for Circulate Capital – USAID signed an agreement with Circulate Capital to provide a $35 million, 50 percent loan-portfolio guarantee through DFC to incentivize private capital investment in the recycling value chain in South and Southeast Asia. The agreement leverages more than $100 million from a private-sector investment strategy managed by Circulate Capital, a firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic and backed by multinational corporations, including PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, and Coca-Cola.
    2. USAID Partnership with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste – In 2020, USAID launched a partnership with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a coalition of more than 40 leading companies that have committed to invest $1.5 billion towards solutions to end plastic waste. The Alliance brings together companies from across the globe involved in all stages of the plastics value- chain – including businesses that make, use, sell, process, collect, and recycle plastics, as well as retailers and consumer-goods and waste-management companies. Through the partnership, USAID and the Alliance will deploy innovative, locally appropriate technologies, infrastructure, and business models to improve waste-management and recycling in cities and communities at the heart of the crisis in ocean plastics pollution. The partnership will also work to improve the livelihoods, health, and safety of waste workers – both formal and informal.
  3. Cartagena Convention Land-Based Sources Protocol for the Wider Caribbean Region – The Protocol is an agreement under the Cartagena Convention that obligates Contracting Parties to address pollution from marine litter, nutrients and wastewater. The US is a Contracting Party ot the CC and LBS and US EPA Chairs the Open-Ended Working Group that advises the Secretariat on efforts aimed at these issues.
  4. Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum Engagement – The United States Department of State worked closely with industry and NGO partners to focus attention on combating marine debris using environmentally sound waste management best practices, innovation, and outreach in APEC.
  5. Global Ghost Gear Initiative Engagement – The GGGI is seen as the preeminent global organization comprised of national governments, NGOs, and industry with the objective of combating abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear.
  6. Department of State Marine Debris Grants – The United States Department of State has administered over four million dollars in grants aimed at helping address marine debris from both land and sea-based sources.
  7. NOAA support to Urban Ocean Initiative – NOAA’s Marine Debris Program is supporting the Urban Ocean Initiative, an effort led by the Ocean Conservancy, an international marine environmental NGO, to better address land-based debris resulting from urban environments. This initiative will provide a platform for select city governments around the world to connect with one another as well as with community leaders, academia, and the private sector to develop, share, and scale solutions to the ocean plastics crisis.

International Cooperation

Solid Waste Management and Inclusive Capacity Building- Trash Free Waters

  • Jamaica – Prioritize marine litter and solid waste management needs and develop projects and activities, including: procuring bins in Whitehouse-Bluefields communities; training schools and local staff in placing them and using the bins; and educating the general public about the impacts of trash.
  • Panama – Prioritize marine litter and solid waste management needs and develop projects and activities, including: identified included public awareness raising on solid waste management and the impacts of trash with local schools and universities. The project also included installation of a river trash boom on the Juan Diaz River.
  • Peru – Stakeholder workshop held involving over 70 participants. The pilot project identified for Chincha addressed solid waste management through helping two communities segregate and selectively collect at the source in order to recover more valuable recyclable material and prevent that material from entering waterways and the ocean.

Strengthening the Connection Between Marine Litter and Solid Waste Management – Central America and Dominican Republic Trade Agreement and Panama Free Trade Agreement – Through an interagency agreement with the Department of State, US EPA is working with the national governments of Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic to engage all stakeholders in identifying solutions to the marine litter problem through improvements in solid waste management. Activities include virtual national dialogues, assisting in their development of national action plans for marine litter, and on-the-ground projects that support the countries’ own efforts. US EPA has completed 2 of 3 planned workshops on landfill management in Panama and Costa Rica, with the next one planned for the Dominican Republic in late summer 2021. Stormwater Runoff and Marine Litter Prevention- Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) – The U.S., Canada and Mexico are implementing projects to reduce marine litter along the transboundary watersheds since 2017. The current CEC project on marine litter includes developing a toolkit and training guide for decision makers on the stakeholder engagement process developed and implemented by the CEC, and developing a Public Awareness Toolkit that will provide ready-to-use, adaptable (plug and play) materials to municipalities, NGOs, educational institutions and other organizations to deliver litter prevention programs and public awareness campaigns. The Toolkit for Decision-Makers is expected to be finalized soon and associated trainings will be conducted. The Public Awareness Toolkit is targeted towards inland communities, including urban inland areas. The messaging will focus on water and trash flow, the full life cycle of a product, and concrete actions that offer individual solutions.

(a) Waste Prevention & Strengthening Recycling (USAID)

USAID Municipal Waste Recycling Program – To date, the program has awarded a total of 30 locally-led grant projects in Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, with a total of 3.5 million people in these countries benefiting from the program activities. In addition, over 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste has been diverted from the natural environment through recycling and improved solid waste management practices.

USAID Clean Cities Blue Ocean – To date, the program has awarded $1.5 million to local grantees who are leading innovative projects. Through these partnerships, and those with local and national governments and the private sector, CCBO has secured over 33,000 metric tons (MT) of plastic from leaking into the environment and aggregated over 217,500 MT of other waste and recyclables.

(b) Infrastructure Investment (USAID):

Development Finance Corporation (DFC) partial loan guarantee for Circulate Capital- Circulate Capital made its first loan utilizing the USAID-DFC loan guarantee in April 2020 to a woman-owned recycling company in Indonesia for facility expansion.

Cartagena Convention – This year, the LBS Protocol will publish a report, entitled “State of the Convention Area Report” (SOCAR) that will be the first ever baseline data of information regarding coastal water quality that reflects national data rather than extrapolated from global assessments.

Global Partnership on Marine Litter – NOAA staff serve on the GPML Steering Committee to help guide its work. US EPA is financially supporting the development of a digital platform to share information on marine litter and plastics on a global level.

Striving for Increased Public Participation in Environmental Protection in Central America through a Small Grants Program with Civil Society Organizations – To date, this Department of State program provided training to over 5,000 people, with 160 people actively involved in community-based initiatives. This initiative strengthened solid waste management capacity in 10 communities through training 61 municipal employees and authorities, resulting in the improved management of over 3,500 tons of solid waste, including 43 tons of plastic waste recycled.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum – Successes included receiving endorsement from APEC members for a revision to a 2009 report on the direct economic costs to APEC economies due to marine debris. The report revises estimates of the direct costs of marine debris to member economies to support arguments to strengthen regulatory and non-regulatory actions. DOS also developed a marine debris management and innovation sub-fund and contributed US $800,000 to the fund. The fund will serve as a dedicated resource for APEC projects aiming to tackle the marine debris problem. DOS continues to engage major source countries in Southeast Asia to encourage policy changes needed to prevent and reduce marine debris. There are four projects that have been approved by APEC member economies to address and better understand marine debris in the APEC region.

Global Ghost Gear Initiative Engagement – In 2020 the United States joined the GGGI as a government member and is working with the organization to combat ghost gear globally through promotion of the voluntary gear marking guidelines developed by the FAO with input from the GGGI.

United States Department of State Marine Debris Grants – The Department of State has provided several grants that help address different aspects of the marine debris issue. One example is a grant provided to the Center for Community Health Research and Development which implemented a project titled, “Social Mobilization For Marine Waste Management”, which aimed to reduce marine debris via social change in Ly Son Island, Vietnam. The project has established a local steering committee on environmental protection; delivered 50 new public waste receptacles; gathered more than 300 people to clean 15km of coast; collected 500kg plastic waste; trained 50 people in waste collection and processing; trained 45 community leaders in communications skills; trained 600 households in proper waste sorting, resulting in a ten-fold increase in the percentage of households practicing proper waste sorting; and provided 3,000 households with reusable shopping baskets to replace single-use plastic bags.

  • Additionally, grantee WWF Peru implemented the project titled, “Making a business out of a problem: Creating a circular economy for abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear in Peru,” with the intent to prevent and reduce the amount of Abandoned, Lost, or otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) entering Peru’s coastal waters by collecting and recycling end-of-life fishing gear. The project launched net collection programs in three communities, obtained signed letters of commitment from the three largest anchoveta fisheries in Peru (Tasa, Copeinca, Austral), and secured a supply of more than 200,000 kg annually of end of life fishing nets for recycling.
  • DOS worked with grantee Ocean Conservancy on the development of the project titled “Implementing Best Practices for Fishing Gear Management to Reduce and Prevent ALDFG in the Caribbean Region,” to reduce and prevent the incidence of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in Jamaica and Dominica. The grantee incorporated the Global Ghost Gear Initiative Best Practices Framework into the COAST checklist for incentivizing good fisheries management practices through an insurance product, and made progress toward implementing the framework; developed innovative fishing gear and gear marking technologies to prevent ALDFG and facilitate gear recovery; and gathered information on the most prevalent types of ALDFG in Caribbean nations to develop a standardized gear retrieval protocol.
  • DOS supports innovative technologies and approaches to combatting marine debris through our grants. This includes grantee WWF-Hong Kong, who developed a project titled “All Hands on Deck – A Community-Based Marine Litter Reduction Programme”, which conducted three coastal cleanup activities, three community fora, selected three types of alternative fish boxes to be tested by the fishing industry to reduce polystyrene marine debris, and engaged the major players (including fishery and seafood industries, and manufacturers of boxes) to obtain support to change from polystyrene to alternative boxes.
  • Another grantee, The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), developed a project called “Building Ecosystems to Reduce Waste in Our Oceans – Ocean Plastic Prevention Incubators”. GKI, and subgrantees SecondMuse and Circulate Capital, aim to reduce marine debris by building effective waste management and plastic recycling economies in Indonesia and the Philippines. The grantees have drafted three case studies and one policy guideline; hosted a workshop that led to the establishment of a stakeholder meeting forum; planned a public Plastics Festival in Surabaya to raise awareness; and built a database of more than 200 waste and recycling operators and potential partners.

Basel Plastic Waste Partnership – The Plastic Waste Partnership was established at the 14th COP to the Basel Convention and held the first meeting in March 2020. The goal of the PWP is to significantly reduce and in the long-term eliminate the discharge of plastic waste and microplastics into the environment, in particular the marine environment. Four project groups were established to begin work focusing on: plastic waste prevention and minimization; plastic waste collection, recycling and other recovery including financing and related markets; transboundary movements of plastic waste; and outreach, education and awareness-raising. The US engages in all four project groups and is preparing for the 2nd PWP meeting June 14-16, 2021.

U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement – In 2020, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USCMA) free trade agreement went into effect between the three nations. This agreement continues the already strong collaboration between these governments to address marine debris in North America. In 2020, the U.S. also passed domestic legislation that provided $8 million in funding to NOAA’s Marine Debris Program to address marine debris in North America of which NOAA is allocating $4 million in 2021 on marine debris projects in the region. This legislation also provided EPA with $4 million in funding to address marine debris, and other environmental issues through the trilateral Commission on Environmental Cooperation.



Cleanup of marine plastic litter

Collection of scattered waste on beach

Names of actions:
NOAA Marine Debris Program Removal Grants

Brief description:
NOAA’s Marine Debris Program provides annual funding to partners in the U.S. to support locally driven, community-based marine debris removal projects. These projects benefit coastal habitat, waterways, and wildlife including migratory fish. Since 2006, NOAA has supported over 100 marine debris removal projects and removed more than 22,500 metric tons of marine debris from our coasts and ocean.

We do not see any particular trend

Removal of plastic litter from the ocean

Names of actions:
NOAA Marine Debris Program Removal Grants

Brief description:
NOAA’s Marine Debris Program provides annual funding to partners in the U.S. to support locally driven, community-based marine debris removal projects. These projects benefit coastal habitat, waterways, and wildlife including migratory fish. Since 2006, NOAA has supported over 100 marine debris removal projects and removed more than 22,500 metric tons of marine debris from our coasts and ocean.

We do not see any particular trend



Promotion of innovative solutions

Public-private partnerships for creating and implementing innovative solution

Names of actions:
EPA Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge

Brief description
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (EPA) Voluntary Programs

  • Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge – EPA runs this challenge to encourage electronics manufacturers, brand owners, and retailers to improve and adopt sustainable materials management approaches. Each year, EPA gives awards to companies that 1) increase the volume of materials collected through “take-back” programs to be recycled at third-party certified electronics refurbishers and recyclers, and 2) can showcase innovative ways they manage materials, such as closing the loop on plastics recycling and using renewable packaging materials.
  • Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge – In 2017, EPA gave Dell an Honorable Mention in the Cutting-Edge Champion Award category of this program for their work in collecting ocean-bound plastics in Haiti and using these plastics in computer parts. Dell was previously awarded for working to establish a closed loop plastics recycling stream (2016) and for replacing much of their product packaging with renewable materials (2015). The program also awarded LG in 2017 for sustainability achievements in the design of their OLED line of televisions that included making sure all plastic parts were labeled to facilitate recycling.

Clean Water Act



Education and awareness raising

Awareness raising campaigns related to MPL

National level:

Names of actions:
EPA National Recycling Strategy

EPA WasteWise

Brief description
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (EPA) Voluntary Programs

  • National Recycling Strategy -The draft National Recycling Strategy was published in fall 2020 and identifies strategic objectives and actions needed to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective U.S. municipal solid waste recycling system. Recycling has been a critical component of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decades-long efforts to implement the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and its more recent efforts to pursue a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) approach, which aims to reduce the environmental impacts of materials across their lifecycle. Building on the National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System and EPA’s long history of providing data, tools, information and other resources to support recycling in the United States, the draft strategy identifies strategic objectives and actions needed to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective U.S. municipal solid waste recycling system. The strategy, when finalized in 2021, will be aligned with and support implementation of the national recycling goals.
  • WasteWise – EPA works with businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations to promote the use and reuse of materials more productively over their entire life cycles. Partners demonstrate how they reduce waste, practice environmental stewardship and incorporate sustainable materials management into their business model, including their waste-handling processes. Benefits of joining WasteWise include reduced costs for purchasing and waste disposal and opportunities to receive WasteWise Awards for outstanding achievements, public recognition in WasteWise publications, outreach and educational materials, and one-on-one technical assistance via the WasteWise Helpline.

International / Regional level:

Names of actions:
NOAA International Marine Debris Conference (IMDC) Series

Brief description:
International Marine Debris Conference (IMDC) series – Since 1984, NOAA has hosted six International Marine Debris Conferences that engage a wide array of key stakeholders and the public to discuss all aspects of the marine debris issue. The last event, the 6IMDC, was held in March 2018 in California and included over 700 attendees from 54 countries. This conference was action, solution, and change-oriented and included sharing of lessons learned and best practices to reduce and prevent marine debris and its impacts; promoting international co-learning; exchanging innovative ideas such as market incentives and communication strategies; and sharing the latest research initiatives, methods, and results. The next event, the 7IMDC is scheduled to be co-hosted by the Republic of Korea and UN Environment Programme.

National level:

WasteWise –

  • Some of the 2019 EPA WasteWise national award winners include: CenturyLink Field, Rooms to Go, Ravitz Family Markets, Price Rite Supermarkets, Inc., City of Chesapeake Garage, Chumash Casino Resort, Central Michigan University, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. These organizations were recognized for their leadership in waste prevention and diversion. The 2019 national award winners reported preventing and diverting over 69,500 tons of waste in 2018 that would otherwise have been disposed in landfills or incinerated.
  • In 2019, Waste Wise celebrated its 25 th anniversary. WasteWise currently has more than 500 partners representing more than 50 sectors. Since the beginning of the program, WasteWise participants have prevented more than 247 million tons of waste from going to the landfill.

Clean Water Act

  • o Trash Free Waters Voluntary Work in the US – Since 2013, the Trash Free Waters Program has participated in or provided technical or financial assistance on over 200 domestic, place-based activities in all 10 EPA Regions – across 33 states, DC and 3 territories.”
  • More than 200 partner programs engaged nationally,
  • Twenty trash capture projects,
  • Sixty source reduction projects,
  • Forty data collection projects,
  • More than thirty projects funded by various EPA competitive grant programs – such as Urban Waters Small Grants and Environmental Justice Small Grants.
  • Twenty-five of the twenty-eight National Estuary Programs have developed Trash Free Waters Projects.
  • Two of the EPA Geographic Programs have recently announced funding recipients for their new Trash Free Waters grants. In order to allow participants additional time to provide data and information due to the Coronavirus pandemic, EPA decided to postpone the 2020 WasteWise award announcement. In November 2021, EPA will recognize achievements of WasteWise participants for both 2020 and 2021.

Marine Debris Act

  • Development of public awareness materials and social media platforms for sharing information to increase awareness and drive behavioral change to reduce the amount and impacts of marine debris .



Monitoring & Scientific research on marine plastic litter

Actions for encouraging monitoring / scientific research on plastic flows and ocean surface microplastics

Names of actions:
NOAA Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Program

Brief description:

  • NOAA implements its Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Program (MDMAP), a citizen science initiative that engages partner organizations and volunteers across the United States in completing shoreline marine debris surveys. Through regular monitoring, NOAA and its many partners systematically collect data to compile a record of the amount and types of debris in the environment, track the progress of existing marine debris prevention initiatives, and identify targets for future mitigation efforts.
  • NOAA’s Shoreline Monitoring Field Guide and Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Technical Memo provide shoreline and surface water monitoring techniques and considerations for monitoring other parts of the marine environment and are used as the basis for marine debris monitoring activities globally. (Link to guide:
  • NOAA also maintains an MDMAP online database including data collected through shoreline marine debris surveys. All data is openly available for data analysis efforts, and it is intended that the data can be used to develop more effective prevention and mitigation strategies to prevent the impacts of marine debris. (Link to database: .)

We do not see any particular trend

Engagement in international/regional level actions for encouraging monitoring / scientific research on plastic flows and ocean surface microplastics

Names of actions:
APEC Marine Debris Shoreline Monitoring Decision Framework

Brief description:
The Department of State and NOAA are leading a project in the APEC region to develop tool to assist in the shoreline monitoring of marine debris in the Asia Pacific Region. This project will develop a decision framework that helps non-technical audiences select the most appropriate shoreline marine debris monitoring protocol.



Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (EPA) Voluntary Programs

  • Facts and Figures Report – EPA began collecting and reporting data on the generation and disposition of waste in the United States more than 30 years ago. EPA releases an annual report, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures , to provide information on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling. The report analyzes MSW trends in generation and management, materials and products, and economic indicators affecting MSW. The most recent Facts and Figures report contains data through calendar year 2017.
  • Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report – This report provides national economic information on the impacts of recycling, namely jobs, wages, and taxes in order to increase the understanding of the economic implications of material reuse and recycling. The most recent report was published in 2016.

Department of Energy Plastics Innovation Challenge

  • The Plastics Innovations Challenge will focus resources from across the U.S. Department of Energy to create a comprehensive program to accelerate innovations that will dramatically reduce plastic waste in oceans and landfills and position the U.S as global leaders in advanced plastics recycling technologies and in the manufacture of new plastics that are recyclable by design. The Plastics Innovation Challenge will draw on both fundamental and applied research capabilities within National Labs, universities and industry. Using a coordinated suite of funding opportunities, critical partnerships, and other programs, the Plastics Innovation Challenge sets the following 5 goals for the United States to reach by 2030:
  1. Develop collection technologies to prevent plastics from entering waterways or facilitate its removal.
  2. Develop biological and chemical methods for deconstructing plastic wastes into useful chemicals.
  3. Develop technologies to upcycle waste chemical streams into higher value products, encouraging increased recycling.
  4. Develop new plastics that are recyclable by design and can be scaled for domestic manufacturability
  5. Support a domestic plastics upcycling supply chain by helping companies scale and deploy new technologies in domestic and global markets.

Clean Water Act

  • Waste Management and Inclusive Capacity Building- Trash Free Waters-
  • In US Federal fiscal years FY19-20, the Trash Free Waters program has verified 100 waterbodies cleaner from trash from efforts related to program activity.
  • National Coastal Condition Assessment 2010 is a statistical survey of the condition of U.S. marine and Great Lakes coasts. The most recent report can be found here :
  • Scleractinian coral microplastic ingestion: Potential calcification effects, size limits, and retention. Research supported by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Marine Debris Act

  • Development of technical papers summarizing the state of the science on several marine debris-related topics.
  • Development of Marine Debris Monitoring Shoreline Protocols and media for protocol training.
  • Funding a number of research projects to examine the fate, transport, and impacts of marine debris in partnership with academic universities.


  • Recycling system improvement
  • Data collection related to marine plastic litter
  • Lack of awareness among citizens, business, local governments

Recycling System Challenges

  • Education and Outreach – It can be difficult for consumers to understand what materials can be recycled, how materials can be recycled, and where to recycle different materials. This confusion can lead to placing recyclables in the trash or throwing trash in the recycling bin or cart. Therefore, it is important to enhance education and outreach to consumers on the value of recycling and how to recycle properly.
  • Infrastructure – Some recycling infrastructure does not match today’s waste stream. Communication between the manufacturers of new materials and products and the recycling industry needs to be enhanced to prepare for and optimally manage the recycling of new materials.
  • Markets for Secondary Materials – Domestic markets for recycled materials need to be strengthened in the United States. There is also a need to better integrate recycled materials and end-of-life management into product and packaging designs. Improving communication among the different sectors of the recycling system is needed to strengthen the development of existing materials markets and to develop new innovative markets.
  • Measurement – Stakeholders across the recycling system agree that more consistent measurement methodologies are needed for measuring recycling system performance. These more standardized metrics can then be used to create effective goals and track progress.

Best practices

National level

Local level

Private sector

International cooperation

Further information

Contact details

G20 Point of Contact – U.S. EPA: Maxwell Torney –

U.S. EPA: Stephanie Adrian –

U.S. Agency for International Development: Clare Romanik –

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Steve Morrison –

U.S. Department of State: Nick Austin –

Recent Meeting

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