WASHINGTON -- As plastic pollution becomes an increasingly dire problem, elected officials in both chambers of Congress introduced legislation Thursday to address the issue. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California unveiled the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021, a bill to improve the health of our people and our planet.
“Our oceans are littered with plastic. It’s harming and even killing whales, sea turtles, birds and other marine life,” said Kelsey Lamp, Environment America's Protect Our Oceans campaign director. “We need to choose wildlife over waste; the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act empowers us to do precisely that. This comprehensive legislation works toward a future where dangerous single-use plastic waste is a thing of the past.”
The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act builds upon state laws across the country, from bottle bills to bans on the worst single-use plastics. If the act becomes law, it would continue to reduce single-use plastic and packaging nationally, and finance recycling, composting and reusable infrastructure. It would also save local and municipal governments billions of dollars per year by shifting the cost of managing waste and recyclables to the plastic producers.
"Having already passed many of these policies on a state level, Maine has been a leader on addressing plastic pollution," said Anya Fetcher, Environment Maine's State Director. Maine has one of the most comprehensive bottle bills in the nation, and in 2019, Gov. Mills signed legislation for statewide bans on plastic bags and foam to-go cups and containers. Additionally, a producer responsibility for packaging bill is being considered in the current legislative session. "It is clear there is broad support in this state for taking action to keep our beaches, forests, waterways, and peaks free of plastic waste. We would like to thank Rep. Pingree for cosponsoring the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, and hope to see the rest of Maine's federal delegation do the same."
"The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act solves the problem from multiple angles. It bans the worst single-use plastic, freezes the creation of new plastic factories, and requires manufacturers to take charge of the waste their products create," said Michaela Morris, Environment America's oceans associate. “Whales are washing up on beaches with plastic knotted in their stomachs. Seals are choking on plastic waste. The suffering of these animals underscores the importance of taking action to end the flow of plastic into our oceans.“
Wayward plastic litters not just our waterways, but also our forests, parks and roadsides. That’s not surprising when you consider that the United States disposes of or incinerates an estimated 32 million tons of plastic each year. Global plastic production is projected to more than triple by 2050, accounting for 20 percent of all global oil consumption.
“We’re inundated by plastic waste, and yet we continue to make more each year, harming our planet and ourselves,” said U.S. Public Interest Research Group Zero Waste Program Director Alex Truelove. “The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act was conceived as an assemblage of ideas that work, based on successful policies across the globe. It addresses our problem at the source by reducing the amount of disposable plastic we use, and encourages a shift toward better and reusable materials. For our children to inherit a less-polluted Earth, that’s exactly what we need.”