Things to remember in a Year to forget

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

- Interns
- Presidential Plastic Action Plan
- California Emergency Executive Order
- U.S. Pollution
- Group of Friends
- UN Expert Group
- UN Consultative Status
- Year-end Giving

** Interns

We all know that 2020 has been a trying year, requiring resilience and adaptability. We're excited to share that we've embarked on a new remote adventure by working with a new class of interns virtually, and across several timezones.

Trish Zwolinkski joins us as an Ocean Program Intern, and both Raena Gountang and Sona Marukyan join us as Ocean Education Interns. We're excited to have them as part of the team, and they're already doing great work!

[screenshot of meeting with interns]
Virtual meetings are a great way to stay connected

** Presidential Plastic Action Plan

Working closely with a number of other organizations, with our friends at Biological Diversity taking the lead, we helped draft an 8-point Presidential Plastic Action Plan (PPAP) for President-elect Biden to tackle the plastic pollution crisis deftly.

Launched on 08 December 2020, our collective media teams were able to arrange some noteworthy projections on buildings in multiple cities throughout the United States.

[compilation of multi-city projections]
Projections took place in 6 different cities around the U.S.

Our Plan was endorsed by more than 550 organizations, and supported by a number of well-known spokespeople, including Keb' Mo, Jane Fonda, Ed Begly, Jr., Alexis Ren, and a member of our own Advisory Board, Sylvia Earle.

To learn more about the Presidential Plastic Action Plan, and to explore ways to support our effort to encourage President-elect Biden to take action, visit

The #PlasticFreePresident PSA, featuring Keb' Mo, Jane Fonda, Ed Begly, Jr., Alexis Ren, Danni Washington, and Sylvia Earle, among others.

** California Emergency Executive Order

In the United States alone, 561 billion disposable foodware items are used each year, resulting in 4.9 million tons of waste – including 36 billion disposable utensils, which if laid end to end, could wrap around the globe more than 100 times.

The situation has worsened this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of single-use items and increased reliance on food delivery and takeout.

Along with Jackie Nuñez, the founder of The Last Plastic Straw , and Advocacy Manager at the Plastic Pollution Coalition (and with input from Miriam Gordon, ( Upstream/National Reuse Network ), COARE created a draft for an Emergency Executive Order for Foodware Accessories Upon Request for the State of California, and a sign-on letter to show our support to encourage Governor Gavin Newsom to issue this order.

This Emergency Executive Order would require restaurants, caterers, and food delivery systems within the State of California to refrain from including single-use dishware, utensils, napkins, condiments, straws, or other foodware accessories when preparing or packaging food to-go or for delivery.

If you are authorized to sign on in behalf of your organization, business, association, or group, and support the issuance of such an order, please send us an e-mail message with your name, title, organization/business/group name, and your logo to add to the sign on letter.

As an individual, whenever you order takeout, please emphasize that you do not want or need utensils, condiments, etc.

Visit to learn more, and to read our proposed Executive Order.

** U.S. Pollution

We have pointed out before the injustice of blaming other countries for waste produced in the Global North. Big Plastic and industry allies often point the finger at certain countries (and rivers) as being the "source" of ocean plastic pollution.

To add insult to injury, Industry will blame those countries' problems on poor or insufficient recycling infrastructure. We've long known, at least anecdotally, that most of that plastic comes from elsewhere, oftentimes from just a small handful of developed countries.

A new report now shows that the United States, even with all of its technological advantages and recycling infrastructure, produces far more plastic waste and contributes to the problem more than any other country in the world.

Clearly, recycling isn't the answer, and this new video from our friends at Climate Town explains pretty well how recycling is used as an excuse for the industry to keep making new plastic. It also explains how those chasing arrows (officially, "resin indicators") are NOT a recycling symbol. Just shy of nine minutes, it's a rather long watch, but it's well worth it.

Please don't get us wrong; we're not totally disparaging recycling. It IS important – but it is not the answer. Recycling of some materials is worthwhile, and with others, it is not. Most people are truly disheartened when they hear that less than 8% of all plastic ever created has been recycled. But 8% of hundreds of millions of metric tons each year is still a lot of plastic to divert. We need to really focus on reuse, and avoid plastics that cannot and will not be recycled. Next time you see those chasing arrows, you'll know the back story.

The plastic industry uses recycling as an excuse to keep making more new plastic

** Group of Friends

COARE was welcomed to the Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution , a high level consortium of Country representatives and other Stakeholders working from the United Nations Headquarters to further international action towards a global treaty on plastic.

We will continue our work with and through the UN Environment Assembly, however, this coalition will facilitate more direct communication with higher levels of government, where nations are more robustly represented at the United Nations Headquarters.

** UN Expert Group

Exercising our International reach, we participated in the fourth meeting of the UN Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics.

Our Executive Director addressed the body several times, and collaborated with colleagues from other NGOs to deliver powerful joint statements during the proceedings.

Years of collaboration with other NGOs and like-minded country and regional delegations have brought us to the point where more than half of the countries in the United Nations are voicing distinct support for a new global treaty to address the full lifecycle of plastics.

The Fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) was originally scheduled to take place in February 2021, and that is where our Expert Group was expected to report back with its findings. UNEA-5 will now be split into two parts, with a brief formal meeting held virtually in early 2021 to consider budgetary and other keep-the-lights-on matters. The second, substantive portion of the meeting is postponed until later in 2021. It is during that second meeting where we hope our years of expert deliberation will direct the discussion and mandate for an International Negotiating Committee (INC), to begin paving the path for a new plastics treaty.

[screenshot of IISD footage of UN Expert Group meeting]
Our ED was featured in images of the meeting captured by International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

** UN Consultative Status

Earlier this year, after a multi-year long application and review process, we finally received official word that our application for Consultative Status at the United Nations was approved.

We now hold Accreditation with the UN Environment Programme, are officially Associated with the UN Department of Global Communications, and hold Special Consultative Status with the United Nations through its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

[Hall of Flags at the UN Headquarters]
Hall of Flags at the United Nations Headquarters in New York

** Year-end Giving

2020 has been quite a year. While we haven't traveled as much or seen any of you in person at various events, the ability to adapt certain processes and meetings to virtual platforms has allowed us to continue our work. Indeed, we've been busier than ever, and while we continue to face challenges in a number of ways, we feel very accomplished and optimistic.

We could not have done what we do without YOU - our readers and our supporters. You provide us with the inspiration, encouragement, and resources that allow us to fulfill our mission and *literally* change the world.

Yet, we wish we could do so much more.

We are a volunteer-led and volunteer-run organization, and since its inception, not a single penny of your donations has been spent on staff or administration. Your dollar, euro, yen, yuan, or rupee could not go further towards making a real difference than it does here at COARE.

We run leanly, and with our many accomplishments, you can see that your contributions truly help shape the future.

Please consider COARE in your year-end giving plans, and help us bring your voice of change into ocean conservation:

Remember, all contributions to COARE are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law, and any donation you make by December 31st (whether online or by post) will count towards your 2020 tax year deductions. Please also check with your employers regarding matching gifts; in many cases, you can double the power of your contribution.

If you are mailing a check, we will be happy to honor the postmark for the year's reporting; please be sure, though, that you make note of our new mailing address:

4096 Piedmont Avenue #180
Oakland, California  94611


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Wishing you healthy oceans,
Your friends at COARE

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