WASHINGTON, D.C. — On February 11, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. Alan Lowethal of California introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act which would phase out single-use …
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On February 11, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. Alan Lowethal of California introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act which would phase out single-use plastics, hold corporations accountable for their plastic waste and reform the country’s recycling and waste collection system.
The Coalition for the Delaware Watershed, a network of more than 150 nonprofits throughout PA, NY, NJ and DE, issued a statement of support for the bill.
“It’s become abundantly clear that we cannot recycle our way out of this crisis that impacts the Delaware River and every other waterway on our planet,” said Sandra Meola, the coalition’s director, who called it “the first comprehensive bill in Congress to address the global plastic pollution crisis.”
In announcing the bill, the congressmen referenced public health hazards, local governmental burdens and climate change exacerbation as justifications. According to a Reuters study, an average person consumes “a credit card worth of plastic” every week. The U.S. disposes or incinerates 32 million tons of plastic per year—this amount is overwhelming to the municipal governments tasked with handling waste, and much of the plastic ends up littered or in the ocean, according to the bill.
If passed, the Break Free act would require companies that produce packaging, containers, food-service products and paper to design and finance their own waste disposal systems—a task that would normally fall to the local government. It would also create a national 10-cent beverage container refund program, to incentivize recycling among consumers. It would also phase out several single-use plastic products like shopping bags, plastic stirrers and plastic utensils. Some states, like NY, have already begun similar phase-outs.
“We urge Congress to move swiftly to support and pass the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, as there is no more time to spare to prevent and reduce plastics from entering our environment and impacting wildlife habitats and public health,” said Meola.
Though the legislation would place more regulation on plastic-producing corporations, Scott Cassel, founder and chief executive officer of the Product Stewardship Institute, said that supporting the bill may be in companies’ best interests. He said that without federal regulation, there is currently a “patchwork” of policies around the country on how to dispose of waste, which can cause significant headaches for producers.