Last week, Virginia lawmakers passed two key pieces of legislation to reduce plastic pollution. HB 1902, introduced by Del. Betsy Carr of Richmond, prohibits the use of polystyrene foam food service containers, including takeout boxes and cups. HB 2159, introduced by Del. Nancy Guy of Virginia Beach, bans the intentional release of balloons into the environment.
Plastic pollution is everywhere, and that includes Virginia’s coastlines and waterways. According to a 2014 study, microplastics were found in 59 out of 60 water samples from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Additionally, the January 2021 "Marine Litter Report" by Virginia Clean Waterways found that balloons are among the deadliest and most common of all types of marine debris found on Virginia’s beaches.
The bills, now that they have been passed by both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate, will go to Gov. Ralph Northam to sign into law.
“We applaud the Virginia state legislators who championed and supported these bills that will help fight plastic pollution, and we are grateful to the many partners and constituents who advocated on their behalf,” said Caroline Wood, field campaigns manager for Oceana. “Virginia is sending a clear message: We don’t want plastic polluting our beaches and harming marine life, and we need policies that reduce the production and use of single-use plastics. The General Assembly has taken meaningful action that will reduce the amount of plastic entering our waterways and help protect coastal communities and economies.”
An estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment every year — roughly the equivalent of dumping two garbage trucks full of plastic into the ocean every minute. On top of plastic’s harmful impacts to marine life, plastic has now been found in our water, food, soil, air and bodies, and scientists are still learning how this may be affecting human health. With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increasing amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our blue planet with devastating consequences.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to end the plastics problem, 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.