Today, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, a groundbreaking piece of federal legislation that comprehensively addresses the growing plastics crisis through source reduction and extended producer responsibility.
The first-of-its-kind bill would phase out certain single-use plastic products — including plastic carryout bags, plastic utensils and foodware made from polystyrene — nationwide, and protect the ability of state and local governments to implement stricter plastics policies. In an effort to shift the burden of plastic waste to the companies producing it, the legislation would create a nationwide beverage container refund program and require single-use plastic producers to finance and manage waste and recycling programs.
“The plastics industry has polluted our environment, refused to give consumers plastic-free choices and is instead ramping up plastic production, so it’s now time for federal action,” said actor, advocate and Oceana board member Ted Danson. “Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal’s Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will reduce the single-use plastics flowing into our ocean, choking marine life and even getting into our food. Reversing the damage we’ve done to the only planet we have will require unprecedented efforts, and the United States has a responsibility to lead that charge.”
Our oceans suffer from a daily onslaught of plastic pollution that harms marine life of all kinds, from zooplankton and sea turtles to whales and dolphins. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment every year — roughly the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the oceans every minute. It’s been found in every corner of the world and has turned up in our drinking water, beer, salt, honey and more.
The problem is too massive for recycling alone to solve. A meager 9% of all plastic waste ever generated has been recycled. Meanwhile, plastic production is projected to quadruple between 2014 and 2050, far outpacing recycling and resulting in more plastic in our oceans.
“It’s high time for companies to do more than just say they will recycle. Plastic pollution has become one of the greatest threats to our oceans. This bill would finally tackle the plastic crisis at its source by reducing the amount produced in the first place, and encouraging a shift to refillable and reusable alternatives,” said Oceana chief policy officer Jacqueline Savitz. “We need to turn off the faucet, not just run for the mop. Without federal action, the plastics industry will continue to pump increasing amounts of single-use plastic into the market, leaving taxpayers and local governments to clean up the mess. We applaud Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal on their leadership in protecting our oceans and our future by addressing the plastics crisis at the source, with real solutions that our country, and our world, so desperately need now, before it’s too late.”
By banning the production and use of the most common single-use plastics, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act eliminates some of the most problematic pollutants found lining our beaches and coasts. Cities and states across the country have been taking the initiative in addressing this threat to our blue planet by implementing single-use plastic bans over the past few years — it’s time for the federal government to act. Oceana thanks Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal for leading the charge with a comprehensive federal policy that tackles plastic pollution at the source.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop plastic pollution, please visit usa.oceana.org/plastics
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.usa.oceana.org to learn more.