The World’s Third Largest Container Shipping Fleet Bans Plastic Waste Transport

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In an effort to improve recycling efforts, the world’s third-largest ocean shipping company says it will no longer transport plastic waste beginning June 1st.

France-based CMA CGM Group says it’s made the “landmark decision” to cease shipping post-consumer plastic—a first in the shipping industry—as a means to help protect oceans and biodiversity. 

According to Rodolphe Saadé, chairman and CEO of the CMA CGM Group, the move will prevent plastic waste from being transported to regions that lack the infrastructure to properly sort, recycle, and recover it.

The CMA CGM Group made the announcement during the One Ocean Summit in France earlier this month. While the company didn’t say which categories of plastic scraps it would ban, it says it carries about 50,000 standard shipping containers worth of plastic waste every year.

Shipping plastic

In 2020, APM-Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, said it would stop shipping recovered paper, plastics, and other scrap materials to China and Hong Kong. That decision was announced in order to “fully comply with government requirements of the People’s Republic of China about zero solid waste import as of 2021,” the company said.

Maersk’s announcement followed similar moves from Mediterranean Shipping Co. and Hapag-Lloyd, the second- and fifth-largest shipping companies.

According to the CMA CGM Group, ten million tons of plastic waste enter oceans every year. 

Courtesy Vivianne Lemay on Unsplash

“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, fauna and flora,” the company said.

“The causes of this pollution include open-air storage and the absence of processing infrastructure for plastic waste that does not actively get recycled or reused.”

CMA CGM says its decision is a step up in its efforts to “make conserving biodiversity one of the priorities of its CSR policy and to develop trade that is more responsible and fair for everyone and for the planet.”

Experts have warned that plastic could outnumber fish in the world’s oceans by 2040 if there isn’t immediate action to curb the production of plastic and improve rates of recycling or proper disposal.

Breaking the plastic cycle

“We applaud this landmark decision by CMA CGM. It is clear they understand the social and health impacts to impacted communities and see the harmful effects of plastic pollution on ocean ecosystems firsthand,” Jan Dell with the Last Beach Cleanup, said in a statement.

“It is the smart and responsible business decision to end the toxic plastic waste trade. Business cannot succeed on a planet choked by plastic pollution.” Last Beach Cleanup has been pressuring shipping companies to take action against plastic waste.

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Courtesy SGR on Unsplash

Dell praised the move as a “big win in stopping waste imperialism and plastic pollution.”

The Basel Action Network (BAN), which has also been urging shipping companies to halt plastic shipping, also supported the decision.

“CMA CGM’s decision to forgo short-term profits for long-term planetary health sets a bold precedent in corporate leadership,” said Jim Puckett, Director of the BAN. “We now call on each of the other major shipping lines to stop their own plastic waste trading and likewise demonstrate a commitment to protecting the health of our oceans and communities around the world.”

Featured image Nick Fewings via Unsplash


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