Reintroducing the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (U.S.)

Today U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), 130 co-sponsors, and more than 200 supporting organizations have reintroduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in the 118th Congress. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which was first introduced in 2020 and reintroduced in 2021, is largely regarded as the most comprehensive approach to addressing plastic pollution in the nation’s history.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2023 expands and improves upon earlier versions of the bill by tapping into proven solutions that will better protect impacted communities, reform our broken recycling system, and shift the financial burden of waste management off of municipalities and taxpayers to where it belongs: the producers of plastic pollution. It would be a big step forward for the United States, the world’s biggest producer of plastic, to take serious steps to address its prolific production of plastic—and commit to eliminating the crisis.

What The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act Could Accomplish

If passed as law, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2023 will:

• Require producers of packaging, containers, and food-service products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs

• Launch a nationwide beverage container refund program to bolster recycling rates,

• Ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable

• Ban single-use plastic carryout bags and place a fee on the distribution of the remaining carryout bags, which has proven successful at the state level

• Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products

• Channel massive investments in U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure,

• Prohibit plastic waste from being shipped to developing countries

• Protect state and local governments that enact more stringent standards

• Require EPA to partner with the National Academies of Science to conduct a comprehensive study on the environment and cumulative public health impacts of incinerators and plastic chemical recycling facilities

• Establish a temporary pause on permitting new and expanded plastic production facilities while the EPA creates and, as necessary, updates regulations on plastic production facilities to protect frontline and fenceline communities from direct and cumulative impacts on public health

• Expand the definition of toxic chemicals and prohibits such toxic chemicals from being included in covered products

• Incentivize greater reuse by requiring the tracking of reusable packaging rates and the creation of pilot programs to implement reuse and refill technology

• And more.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act incorporates the Protecting Communities from Plastics Act as introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Merkley, and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), in December 2022. The Protecting Communities from Plastics Act:

• Issues a permitting moratorium for plastic facilities that restricts the issuing of new permits for these facilities under the Clean Air Act or the Federal Water Pollution Control Act

• Sets new Clean Air Act requirements for plastic facilities

• Sets national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants at plastic facilities

• Sets new clean water requirements at plastic facilities

• Establishes environmental justice requirements for plastic facilities, including assessing cumulative economic, environmental, and public health impacts for proposed facilities,

• Establishes new microplastics research and directives, including:

‣ Directing the Food and Drug Administration study on the presence and sources of microplastics in food (including drink) products, including food products containing fish, meat, fruits, or vegetables

‣ Directing the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on the presence of microplastics in the human body, which may include determining how the presence of microplastics in organs and biospecimens, including urine, breastmilk, and stool, impacts human health.

Lastly, The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2023 also includes the Plastic Pellet-Free Waters Act as introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), which:

• Requires the EPA to prohibit the discharge of plastic pellets and other pre-production plastic into waterways from facilities and sources that make, use, package, or transport pellets.

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act is endorsed by nearly 100 groups. See what they are saying about the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act here. Learn more about policy solutions for a plastic pollution free U.S. in the recording of our September 2023 Webinar and Q&A.

Take Action

With such potentially groundbreaking plastic pollution legislation now on the table in the United States, it’s time to take action—and we need your help. Help pass The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2023, and call on the U.S. Government to get serious about engaging in real solutions to plastic pollution. Write or call your legislators to support this important policy to end plastic pollution; find your representative here.