There’s been a tidal wave of change recently in the fight against plastic and change is coming for the shipping industry, as well.

Consumers have spoken and the consensus points to the increasingly important need to phase out single-use plastics in consumer products, packaging, and shipping materials. Biodegradability and sustainability are key in today’s discerning market, and many companies are evolving to stay in the game.

New technologies and products are entering the market regularly, including corrugated bubble wrap, green wrap, biodegradable air pillows and wraps, and packing peanuts made from corn or other plant starch materials (PSM), according to a report by Freight Snap.

Creating biodegradable and recyclable plastics is the technology of the moment in the packaging domain. According to research company MarketsandMarkets, the biodegradable plastics market is forecast to go from its current value of USD3.02 billion to USD6.12 billion by 2023.

Plastic is choking the seas and the wildlife above and under the surface, and many governments have come aboard to combat this growing problem. The UK Government published a report in early 2018 highlighting its 25-year environmental plan. Part of that plan includes a target to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, and reduce and prevent all kinds of marine plastic pollution, according to the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) held a meeting in late October to discuss marine plastic litter from ships. The aim of the resultant action plan is to “enhance existing regulations and introduce new supporting measures to reduce marine plastic litter from ships,” according to documentation provided by Natasha Brown, IMO Media and Communications Officer.

The action plan highlights the need to address environmental and health problems stemming from marine plastic litter by 2025. The effect of marine plastics covers a wide swath from injuring marine life, biodiversity, and human health to negatively impacting shipping, tourism, and fisheries, according to the action plan.

In 2016, a program was initiated in the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam allowing sea-going vessels to dispose of plastic waste for free, according to a press release from the Institute for European Environmental Policy. This program applies to clean and separated plastic waste exceeding six cubic metres. On the ports side in both Dutch cities, the ‘Green Deal’ program has also been launched with the aim of preventing waste in harbours and collecting plastic for recycling.