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ICYMI: EPA Effort Announced to Reduce Trash in Waterways and Oceans

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Kimberly Miller
Palm Beach Post
October 19, 2020

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a new federal effort Monday to reduce the 28 billion pounds of trash that reaches the world’s waterways and oceans every year.

The four-part strategy, which includes open-ended goals such as promoting research and development, also is about bringing together the multiple agencies that address marine liter so that a more overarching clean-up plan can be written, Wheeler said.

“Different agencies have done different things in this space over the years, but we have never addressed it in a comprehensive manner,” Wheeler said after the announcement at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. “Instead of having a one-off, piecemeal approach, we are now all agreeing we will work together to solve the problem.”


On Monday, in addition to Wheeler, Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Mark Menezes, Mary Neumayr, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, Deputy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Tim Gallaudet, and EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker were in attendance.

U.S. House Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, who has been a supporter of environmental efforts in the Treasure Coast and South Florida, also spoke during the announcement.

Speakers touted programs such as NOAA's Marine Debris Program, which has given $24 million to remove and research marine debris, and a 2020 award from the EPA of $7.8 million to 17 recipients along the Gulf Coast to remove and prevent trash in the waterways and Gulf of Mexico.

Part of the new emphasis on marine trash will be overseas, including trying to make it worth it for other countries to have better recycling programs and keep trash out of the water. The EPA said five countries in Asia account for more than half of the plastic trash in the ocean.


Wheeler said the U.S. wants to share ideas such as using a trash water wheel, skimmer boats and trash booms that collect trash on rivers and streams with other countries.

“If we are going to solve this we are going to have to address it in Asia,” Wheeler said.

Mast was more blunt.

“We have to look to the other countries out there dumping crap in the water, not just human crap, but also garbage,” Mast said. “China, Indonesia, Vietnam, we have to take them on and find ways to cut some of the business that is going on there because this affects everyone globally.”


Another strategy announced Monday was an emphasis on building better trash management systems. Wheeler mentioned the $100 million recycling plant being built in Eerie, Penn. by a private company.

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