Historic ‘Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act’ to Address the Plastic Pollution Crisis

Photo: Albatross with plastic visible in its stomach. Photo by Chris Jordan.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. EST, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), as well as U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and other congressional leaders will host a press event to unveil the historic Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, legislation to tackle the exploding crisis of plastic pollution and transform waste and recycling management in the United States. 

The lawmakers will be joined by advocates, concerned citizens, and Plastic Pollution Coalition members, including Julia Cohen, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Jackie Nuñez, Founder and Program Manager, The Last Plastic Straw, and Hannah Testa, a 17-year-old Founder of Hannah4Change. 

WHAT: Udall, Lowenthal, Merkley and advocates and concerned citizens to hold bill launch event at the Capitol 

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. MT. Media should be set by 11:00 a.m. ET.

WHERE: Senate Swamp, U.S. Capitol. In case of inclement weather the event will be held in SVC-215. 

WHO: Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Concerned citizens and advocates

This unprecedented legislation seeks to meaningfully address the plastic pollution crisis by:

  • Shifting responsibility for waste management and recycling to manufacturers and producers,

  • Setting up a national beverage container refund program,

  • Establishing minimum recycled content standards and

  • Phasing out certain single-use plastic products that aren’t recyclable.

Additionally, this legislation will prohibit plastic waste from being exported to developing countries, and place a temporary pause on new plastic facilities until the EPA updates and creates important environmental and health regulations on those facilities. 

“Global plastic production is drowning humanity in 335 million tons of plastic annually, and it’s still rising, projected to more than TRIPLE by 2050. This will account for 20 percent of all fossil fuels consumed. We have less than two years to redirect the titanic and prevent potential climate and human health catastrophe. It is time to listen to the science and break free from plastic by supporting the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, legislation that will significantly reduce production of single-use plastic, promote upstream reusable solutions, and transform the recycling system in the U.S, and reduce harmful environmental and human health impacts. Plastic Pollution Coalition has been beating the drum to educate the world that plastic pollutes and driving individuals, businesses, organizations, and policymakers to refuse single-use plastic for more than 10 years leading up to this historic moment. This legislation is a HUGE step toward a world free of plastic pollution.”

-Julia Cohen, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Plastic Pollution Coalition

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is a common sense, comprehensive systems-based approach to the plastic pollution crisis. As an advisor on dozens of local ordinances in the U.S. to limit single-use plastic foodware and drinkware, such as plastic straws, we support this legislation as a critical step in the movement to stop single-use plastic pollution from the source.”

-Jackie Nuñez, Founder and Program Manager, The Last Plastic Straw

“When we founded Plastic Pollution Coalition 10 years ago, we dreamed of historic nationwide legislation as The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, which will significantly reduce production of single-use plastic, promote upstream reusable solutions, and transform the recycling system in the U.S. This legislation will move the U.S. to more effectively manage our plastic problem, reduce the human health impact, and put the U.S. on a path toward a world free of plastic pollution. ”

-Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO, Plastic Pollution Coalition

About Plastic Pollution Coalition

Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of more than 1,000 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 60 countries working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and the environment. 

Thank you to all the organizations and businesses that have signed on in support of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020.

Sign on here.

4 responses to “Historic ‘Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act’ to Address the Plastic Pollution Crisis”

  1. danaisenberg@yahoo.com says:

    What are next steps? What can we do now to help raise awareness and encourage passing of this legislation?

  2. paulaa.jones@verizon.net says:

    Here is the article I wrote for my local newspaper in Ipswich MA…

     While Massachusetts legislators have struggled unsuccessfully to pass any kind of statewide single-use plastic ban each year since 2013, other states have moved ahead with statewide controls on plastic pollution. Eight states--California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont--have all banned single-use plastic bags as well as other single-use plastics like straws and Styrofoam. Now, a group of U.S. Senators and Representatives have proposed a federal bill to take unified steps toward making the plastics industry responsible for the nation’s plastic pollution. California Rep. Alan Lowenthal  and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico have co-authored a bill titled the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. It was filed in both houses of the Congress and Massachusetts Reps. Seth Moulton and Katherine Clark have co-signed the bill along with many other representatives and senators.
    The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will shift the responsibility for recycling and cleanup to the companies that produce the products in the first place. This change will incentivize big companies to think outside the box and innovate new plastic alternatives, and encourage vast investments in the recycling and composting infrastructure. This approach, known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), includes management of the possible impacts of a product in all stages of production, distribution, use, collection, re-use, recycling, reprocessing and disposal.
    The bill would also reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable, establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products, while standardizing recycling and composting labeling (don’t we all want this?) as well as encouraging massive investments in American recycling and composting infrastructure.
    Does a nation-wide plastic pollution bill go too far? As our planet drowns in trash, the United Nations has identified single-use plastics as one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges. According to the U.N., 127 countries have effectively reduced the use of plastic bags through policy efforts and measures. About 27 nations have active laws to either ban or significantly restrict single-use plastics, namely bags, straws and dinnerware. In 2019, the European Union’s parliament voted to ban the top 10 single-use plastic items found on European beaches by 2021. The EU measure also calls for 90 percent of plastic bottles to be recycled by 2025. In Canada, a national ban on many single-use plastics is on track for 2021. In January, China announced that plastic bags will be banned in all of China’s major cities by the end of 2020 and banned in all cities and towns in 2022. By end of 2020, the Chinese restaurant industry will be banned from using single-use straws. By 2025, towns and cities across China must reduce the consumption of single-use plastic items in the restaurant industry by 30%. This proactive approach by countries around the world can help limit the amount of waste that finds its way into our oceans, but substantial change will rely on governments' ability to coordinate with business on related policies such as EPR to further limit the mass production and use of unsustainable products.
    Rep. Lowenthal, author of the Break Free from Plastic Act has stated “Recent scientific studies show that plastic waste particles are now found everywhere we look—in the soil, in the rainwater, in the food chain, and even inside our own bodies. Our legislation applies one of the core principles of environmental law: ‘the polluter pays.’ It is time for multi-billion-dollar companies to step up and cover the costs of cleaning up the waste from their products.”
    Sources familiar with the bill’s progress said that while it was introduced in both bodies of Congress, it will likely be taken up by the House of Representatives first. However, it is “not very likely” that the bill will advance past the Senate because of the pushback expected from the oil industry. But this bill could serve as a starting point for future legislation as it’s not likely to be adopted by the current administration.

    Send questions you have to ipswichrecycles@gmail.com. Don’t forget to bring your reusable bags when shopping. And please, visit our Facebook page at Ipswich Recycles and Composts.

  3. sachinrsgu@gmail.com says:

    Hello, my name is Sachin Singh, I am from India and I am a student, I know today if plastic pollution is not stopped then we will lose our nature and meaning after a lot of years, slowly air, water, animals, trees, plants are all getting lost. I am very upset that this nature gave us everything but I am unable to do anything for it, I want to do something for the environment but I do not understand how. I can recycle plastic with new technology, I know I cannot do world level work because I do not have the source and support, but I can definitely start this work from India. So that I can also give work to people, man power is very important for this work, so that people can also be awakened and our organization can work on war level and plastic I can get my nature out of the problem
    If you have any suggestion, please tell or there is some organization with which I can work by joining.
    Thank you

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