Congress Introduces Bill to Ban Plastic Foam - Oceana USA

Congress Introduces Bill to Ban Plastic Foam

National legislation follows 11 states and hundreds of cities that have phased out plastic foam

Press Release Date: December 7, 2023

Location: Washington

Contact:

Ariana Miller,Megan Jordan | email: amiller@oceana.org,mjordan@oceana.org | tel: Ariana Miller,202.868.4061

Today, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Md., and Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Tex., along with over 50 cosponsors, introduced the “Farewell to Foam Act,” which would phase out plastic foam food containers, loose fill foam, and single-use foam coolers across the country. 

“The only foam we should see in the ocean is on the waves, but unfortunately plastic foam ends up on our beaches, along waterways, and in the ocean. Plastic foam’s harmful impacts and persistence in our environment demand immediate attention if we are to effectively combat the growing plastic pollution crisis. Oceana applauds Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Lloyd Doggett for taking the lead on banning plastic foam, a problematic material that hurts our oceans and communities, and its continued production fuels the climate crisis. So far, 11 states and hundreds of cities have passed laws to phase out plastic foam, and now is the time for a nationwide ban. For the sake of our environment and our own health, we call on Congress to swiftly pass the Farewell to Foam Act,” said Christy Leavitt, campaign director at Oceana. 

Oceana says policies governing the production and use of single-use plastic items are the most effective way to address the plastic pollution crisis, and they are becoming more common from the municipal to the national levels. In August of this year, Delaware became the 11th state to pass a law to reduce plastic foam, joining California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington as well as the District of Columbia. More than 250 cities and counties have also passed restrictions on plastic foam. 

According to polling data from Oceana, 77% of American voters support national policies to reduce the use of single-use plastics, and 72% specifically support policies to reduce the use of plastic foam foodware, packing peanuts, and coolers. 

Plastic foam, formally known as expanded polystyrene, is manufactured from fossil fuels and is frequently used for takeout food containers and packaging materials. Typically thrown away after a single use, plastic foam breaks up into smaller pieces that are difficult to clean up and disperse easily, polluting the environment for decades. Styrene, the chemical building block of polystyrene, is considered “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization and has been found to leach out of plastic foam containers at all temperatures, posing a threat to human health.  

Background  

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. Polling was conducted by the nonpartisan polling company Ipsos, which surveyed 1,000 American adults from across the U.S. in December 2022. Included among the key findings:    

  • 83% of American voters are concerned about single-use plastic products.   
  • 84% support increasing the use of reusable packaging and foodware.  
  • 80% support requiring companies to reduce their single-use plastic packaging and foodware.   

To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop plastic pollution, please visit usa.oceana.org/plastics