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CMA CGM to halt overseas transport of plastic waste

About 500,000 tons of plastic waste impacted by decision

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

During the One Ocean Summit last week, container shipping company CMA CGM committed to stop transporting plastic waste overseas beginning in June. 

The Marseille, France-based company shipped approximately 50,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of plastic waste from developed countries to Southeast Asia in 2021, CMA CGM Group told FreightWaves. That adds up to about 500,000 tons of plastic waste sent to countries that didn’t produce it.

Though many companies that produce and use single-use plastic products want Americans to believe that the plastic put in their recycling bins is sent to a nearby factory and made into something new, a lot of plastic waste produced by developing countries such as the U.S. is sent to developing countries to deal with.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition estimated that 157,000 TEUs of plastic waste were sent from the U.S. to countries with “poor waste management” in 2018. 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

“Removing plastic waste is a priority when discussing the protection of our oceans and conserving biodiversity. Every year around 10 million tons of plastic waste end up in oceans and seas. Unless action is taken, that figure is set to triple over the next 20 years to reach 29 million tons per year, which will cause irreversible damage to marine ecosystems,” CMA CGM Group said.

Discarded plastic that winds up in oceans traps marine animals, pollutes waters, breaks down into microplastics and can end up on the dinner plates of seafood lovers. The World Economic Forum predicts that, by weight, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

 Read: The Ocean Cleanup System aims to reduce ocean plastic pollution

Plastic pollution stems from open-air storage and a lack of infrastructure to properly process, recycle and reuse plastics, according to a release. CMA CGM said, “By not hauling plastic waste, we can help prevent this type waste from ending up in places where sorting, recycling and recovery is not guaranteed.”

Developed countries mismanage significantly less plastic waste than developing countries, where large volumes of plastic waste are being sent, according to Our World in Data. The data estimates that South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa inadequately dispose of 80% to 90% of plastic waste, which increases the risk of polluting rivers and oceans.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

CMA CGM Group is “determined to act as quickly as possible” in the ways it can operationally make a difference to limit the negative impacts of climate change and damage to biodiversity.

“With this landmark decision effective June 1, 2022, the CMA CGM Group continues to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity,” CMA CGM Group said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.