The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) works to promote safety, protect the environment, and conserve resources offshore through vigorous regulatory oversight and enforcement. BSEE protects the environment across the 1.7 billion acres of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). One aspect of that protection is our program to reduce the contribution of the oil and gas industry to marine debris.
Marine debris has become an increasing problem in recent decades. Many products designed for short-term use and most packaging designed for one-time use (e.g., bottled water) have littered beaches and waterways around the world. Plastic packaging contributes greatly to the debris problem. While plastics may constitute only about 13% of our wastes (EPA, 2014), their long durability results in massive accumulation. Plastics typically compose about 75% of debris on beaches (SCBD, 2012). They decay very slowly and build up in our environment (see the marine debris timeline, below). Estimates of plastic debris finding its way into our oceans range from about 5 to 13 million tons each year just from the coastal zone (NOAA-MDP, 2016; Jambeck et al., 2015; Marine Litter Solutions, 2009; UNEP, 2005). In the United States, about 80% of marine debris washes into the oceans from land-based sources and 20% is from ocean sources (EPA, 2017; UNEP, 2017; UNEP, 2008; UNEP, 2006; GESAMP, 1990). Ocean sources include shipping, fishing, cruise lines, military, and industry. The oil and gas industry is only one part of those sources.