WASHINGTON — Federal lawmakers introduce break free from Plastic Pollution Act to curb U.S. plastic pollution. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif. — along with over 90 fellow members of the Senate and House — reintroduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act on Thursday, March 25, giving Congress the opportunity to enact legislation that stops plastic pollution at the source.
This comprehensive federal bill would continue the momentum initiated by cities, counties and states across America that have passed policies regulating single-use plastic. If passed, it would be the first national law to phase out unnecessary single-use plastic products, including plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food containers; protect fenceline communities by putting a moratorium on new plastic facilities across the country; and ensure cities and states have the ability to continue their progress in combatting the plastic pollution crisis. Not only would it reduce the production and use of single-use plastic in the U.S., but it would also limit the amount of plastic waste exported to developing nations and finally put the onus of managing plastic waste on the companies producing it.
“Time is running out to prevent a future completely overrun by plastic — the U.S. has the responsibility, and the power, to turn the tide on this global problem and hold companies responsible for this crisis before it’s too late,” said actor, advocate and Oceana board member Ted Danson. “The United States creates more plastic waste than any other country, and yet we have not passed a federal law to tackle this monumental threat to our planet. Thanks to Senator Merkley and Representative Lowenthal, the U.S. can now join other countries around the world that are leading the fight to reduce the production and use of this persistent pollutant.”
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. Just this past November, Oceana found evidence of nearly 1,800 marine mammals and sea turtles swallowing or become entangled in plastic in U.S. waters between 2009 and early 2020 — 88% of those animals were from species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
“We need to tackle the plastics crisis now, and the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act does just that by reducing plastic pollution at the source,” said Oceana Plastics Campaign Director Christy Leavitt. “We know policies regulating single-use plastic make a difference because we’ve seen it happen in the many cities and states that have been taking action for years. All of those efforts have led to this moment. We urgently need our federal elected leaders to build on this support and push industry to ditch its plastic habit and start making the shift to sustainable alternatives, like reusable and refillable systems.”
Plastic has been found in every corner of the world and has turned up in drinking water, beer, salt, honey and more. Recycling alone will not solve this problem — the plastic recycling rate has never exceeded 10%, and companies continue to push new plastic products onto the market. With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increasing amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our blue planet with devastating consequences.