Trash on the shoreline of Kuiu Island in Southeast Alaska in 2017 (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan is highlighting the passage of his bi-partisan legislation aimed at cleaning up plastic in the ocean and reducing that pollution.

The bill is called Save Our Seas 2.0, building on the first version of the bill approved in 2018. This update was introduced by Sullivan and democrats Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Bob Menendez of New Jersey. Congress finalized it this fall and president Trump signed it December 18th.

“It’s an issue that everybody cares about, cleaning up the oceans,” Sullivan said during a recent teleconference with reporters. “It’s going to be huge for Alaska and our fisheries but really important for America. It puts our country in the lead again on this issue and it’s a solvable issue. 10 rivers in Asia and Africa are estimated to be responsible for up to 80 percent of all the plastic pollution in the world and this targets that.”

The bill aims to reduce the supply of plastic waste entering the ocean with grants for study of waste management and mitigation in the U.S. It also formalizes U.S. policy on international agreements and aims to improve outreach to other countries about the problem.

The bill creates a marine debris response trust fund for clean up. Sullivan said the bill also focuses on research in that area.

“That has a congressionally chartered ocean debris foundation that will be headquartered somewhere,” he explained. “We think it should be headquartered in Alaska. And I think that’s going to be an important aspect of that bill keeping us on the lead for ocean clean up, the research that needs to go into that and so that’s something we’re going to be following up on.”

Sullivan said a third version of the bill is already in the works.

Here’s a link to the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program.