The United States Senate last week unanimously passed the bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act to “to address the plastic debris crisis threatening coastal economies and harming marine life.”

According to a press release from Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who introduced the bill, the act is the “most comprehensive marine debris legislation ever to pass the U.S. Senate.”

The new legislation builds on the Save Our Seas Act of 2018, introduced by Sullivan and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). The bill is now before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Tons of trash that washed ashore at Kamilo Beach in 2016. New federal legislation aims to prevent such debris.

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The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act has three main goals, according to Sullivan’s office:

  • strengthening 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; and
  • improving domestic infrastructure to prevent marine debris through new grants for and studies of waste management and mitigation.

Co-sponsors of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act include Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, Democrats of Hawaii.

“Marine debris from all over the world is found in Hawaii’s waters and washes up on our shores, including between 15 and 20 tons per year just on Hawaii Island’s Kamilo Beach,” Hirono said in her own press release Tuesday. “The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act provides critical resources for cleaning up our existing pollution, facilitating international collaboration to curtail marine debris globally, and improving infrastructure to keep debris from entering the environment. We must address this global crisis immediately to protect the health of Hawaii’s avian and marine life, including corals, fish, humpback whales, sea turtles, and monk seals.”

Hirono’s office noted that plastic “can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, and plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals annually,” according to estimates from the United Nations.

“A recent study in Hawaii found that fish begin ingesting microplastics as early as the larval phase, which could have drastic impacts on marine ecology.”

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