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Ocean Trash in the Spotlight (Again) at Clinton Global Summit

The big mass of plastic trash swirling in the Pacific Ocean is finding itself in the spotlight again today.

First, clean products company Method unveiled last week its new Ocean bottle that is partially comprised of plastic garbage pulled from the sea. And then today, the Texas-sized Gyre grabbed headlines at the Clinton Global Initiative when the Ocean Recovery Alliance (ORA) revealed how far it has come on commitments made during the annual event last year.

If you're not familiar with the Clinton Global Initiative, it's the brainchild of the former president, who convenes companies, NGOs and governments every year to discuss the world's most pressing problems, such as poverty, climate change and education.

But the event goes beyond mere talk to action, with participants making what are often big and bodacious commitments to address a certain issue. For example, in years past, India's Suzlon Energy offered to spend $5 billion over a decade on projects that would deliver renewable energy to 10 million people. Last year, Environmental Defense Fund, Donlen and GreenDriver committed to reducing commercial fleet emissions 20 percent over five years.

The ORA pledged last year to create an online tool to help communities report and rate plastic pollution in their local rivers and waterways. The resulting tool is called Global Alert, which was demonstrated at the event to show how users can visualize the floating trash problem.

A second commitment from ORA involves the Plastic Disclosure Project, an investor-led effort that aims to get organizations to measure, track and manage their plastic use in the same way they treat carbon dioxide emissions. Over the last year, ORA has been laying the foundation for the annual questionnaire, the content of which will be made public next month.

Expect other news and commitments to come out of the event, which runs through Thursday. The themes this year are jobs, sustainable consumption and girls and women; Clinton said Sunday while promoting the event that the key solutions to worldwide job growth involve the environmental sector and women.

Other sustainability news to come out the Clinton Global Initiative so far include:

Fair Trade USA announced Fair Trade for All, a strategy designed to double U.S. sales for Fair Trade farmers and give millions of additional farmers and workers access to Fair Trade benefits by 2015.

• Insurer Swiss Re, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Oxfam America will expand its R4 Rural Resilience Initiative from Ethiopia to Senegal to help communities adapt to climate change.

B Lab, the creator of the B Impact Rating System, launched GIIRS Ratings & Analytics to help investors weigh the social and environmental impacts of the companies in their portfolios. Fifteen investors also committed to an investment preference of GIIRS-rated funds and companies.

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