Biden Administration Falls Short on Plan to Reduce Plastic Purchasing Across the Government
U.S. government proposes to reduce plastic footprint, but Oceana says it must do more
Press Release Date: December 22, 2023
Megan Jordan | email: email@example.com | tel: 202.868.4061
Today the General Services Administration (GSA) filed a proposed rule to reduce the federal government’s purchasing of single-use plastic packaging. The GSA is the federal agency that oversees government procurement. The U.S. government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services, and decisions by the GSA can have a global impact on the plastic pollution crisis. The GSA will hold a 60-day comment period for the public to weigh in on the proposed rule.
An estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the oceans every year, including single-use items such as plastic bottles, packaging, takeout food containers, and bags. Oceana says the GSA’s proposed rule fails to effectively reduce plastic packaging, especially the lack of requirements around purchasing decisions. Oceana is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the rule by mandating the reduction of single-use plastic packaging when federal agencies purchase products using GSA contracts.
“The U.S. government could be one step closer to reducing its plastic footprint but missed the mark today,” said Christy Leavitt, Oceana’s plastics campaign director. “President Biden can and should do more to prevent plastic pollution in the final rule. The U.S. government’s purchasing choices can play a significant role in reducing plastic pollution, protecting our oceans, climate, and communities, and moving the economy away from unnecessary single-use plastic. The Biden administration must do more and set smart policies at the national level to reduce plastic pollution at the source and inspire the private sector to follow suit.”
The Biden administration committed in 2022 to phase out single-use plastic products on public lands managed by the Department of the Interior, including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Acadia, and all other national parks. According to a national poll released by Oceana in February 2023, an overwhelming 82% of U.S. voters across party lines support reducing the federal government’s use of single-use plastic — nearly 85% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans.
In September 2022, Oceana filed comments with the GSA as part of the public comment period to inform the rulemaking proposal and delivered more than 9,300 petition signatures from constituents calling on the government to reduce the purchasing of single use plastics.
Scientists estimate that 33 billion pounds of plastic wash into the ocean every year. That equates to about two garbage trucks’ worth of plastic entering the ocean every minute. Plastic has been found in every corner of the world and has turned up in drinking water, beer, salt, honey, and more. It’s also one of the greatest contributors to climate change. In fact, if plastic were a country, it would be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increased amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our blue planet with devastating consequences.
A 2020 Oceana report revealed evidence of nearly 1,800 animals from 40 different species swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic in U.S. waters between 2009 and early 2020. Of those animals, a staggering 88% were from species listed as endangered or threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act.
Less than 6% of plastic in the U.S. is recycled, yet the plastics industry continues to tout recycling as a panacea while pushing new plastic products onto the market. Companies need to dramatically reduce the production and use of unnecessary single-use plastic, provide plastic-free choices, and develop systems that refill and reuse packaging and foodware. Elected officials must enact policies to ensure they do so.
In February 2023, Oceana released the results of a nationwide poll that showed broad bipartisan concern about single-use plastics and support for reducing both the production and use of these products and increasing the use of reusable packaging and foodware. Included among the key findings:
- 83% of American voters are concerned about single-use plastic products
- 73% support a pause in building new plastic production facilities
- 82% support reducing the federal government’s use of single-use plastic
Polling was conducted by the nonpartisan polling company Ipsos, which surveyed 1,000 American adults from across the U.S. in December 2022.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop plastic pollution, please visit usa.oceana.org/plastics.