End Plastics

Federal plastic pollution bill holds companies accountable

Today, Congressman Alan Lowenthal and Senator Tom Udall are expected to introduce the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to Congress. It is the United States’ first bill that aims to reduce the use, production and distribution of single-use plastics, as well as encourage the proper collection and recycling of plastic products.

“We need a bold, national strategy to tackle plastic pollution,” said Senator Udall in a statement in October. “This bill would call on all of us, from companies to communities, to address this crisis head-on.”

The fight against plastic pollution is currently being led by the developing world and the Global South. Sixteen countries in Africa have bans on single-use plastic bags. The bill to be introduced today would bring the U.S. into the international landscape of plastic-free legislation.

The U.S. bill has three main components. First, the bill pushes responsibility onto plastic producers and distributors. Under the bill, these producers and distributers must fund, design and implement programs to collect and process the waste they produce.

“The financial burden of cleaning up pollution should not be borne by taxpayers alone,” Congressman Lowenthal said in a statement. “The manufactures and companies who sell the products must be held accountable for the end use of their products.” 

Second, the bill offers a nationwide refund for consumers who return beverage containers.

Third, and most importantly, the bill phases out many single-use, nonrecyclable plastic products. Such products targeted include thin plastic shopping bags, expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) food and drink containers, plastic stirrers and plastic utensils.

These policies should prevent plastic waste and empower the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate plastic manufacturers. If passed, the bill could set an example for the rest of the world.

The policies in this bill have already been successfully enacted by states and cities across the country. The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act simply expands these policies to the rest of the country. Americans know how dangerous plastic pollution is, but so many states have blocked progressive attempts to solve the problem. It’s time for the U.S. to end our dependence on plastic once and for all.

Tell your representative that you support the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 and ask them to vote for it. Learn more about ending plastic pollution by calculating your plastic footprint and by participating in our Great Global Cleanup.