U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar Introduces the Zero Waste Act

Via PPC Member GAIA

Rep. Ilhan Omar Introduces Zero Waste Act 

WASHINGTON – Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Zero Waste Act on July 25 to invest in solutions that address the waste epidemic plaguing our country. These funds will go towards reducing landfills and incinerators that emit toxic pollution into our communities, especially in low income communities or communities of color.

“We can imagine a future where we prioritize people’s health, the environment, and justice, knowing our fates are tied together,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar. “Today, we need elected leaders to champion solutions that match the scope of the challenges we face. Addressing the waste crisis is critical to preventing further damage to our climate—it’s integral to racial justice and a clean, equitable future.”

The bill will create a federal grant program to help local cities to invest in zero waste initiatives. These funds can go towards recycling infrastructure, or towards the creation of partnerships with local businesses aimed at reducing waste in their operations. The Zero Waste Act will create jobs, grow domestic manufacturing, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clean waterways, protect our communities from health hazards, save energy, and further grow our economy.

Landfills were responsible for 103 million metric tons of carbon equivalent emitted as of 2011, or 18 percent of all methane emissions. Waste is also an environmental justice issue. Nearly 80% of incinerators are placed in low-income areas or near communities of color and indigenous lands—including North Minneapolis and the Phillips neighborhood in Minnesota’s 5th District. 

Original co-sponsors include Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Deb Haaland, Betty McCollum, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Ayanna Pressley, Chellie Pingree and Gwen Moore.

The bill is endorsed by the following organizations Plastic Pollution Coalition, City of Minneapolis, Eureka Recycling, Zero Waste Washington, US Composting Council, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Climate Generation, Surfrider Foundation, TakeAction Minnesota, Minnesota Composting Council.

You can watch the bill introduction here and find the full text here.

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Reports from the Seattle, Washington area, show that bald eagles – the American national bird – are taking hazardous waste and plastic pollution from a local landfill and dropping it in suburban back yards.

The federally protected birds are visiting the open-air Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in King County, which was supposed to have been closed years ago, but a proposed expansion has kept it open.

Popular Mechanics reports that over two tons of trash are brought to the location every day, and landfill staff estimate that around 200 eagles have made the area their home, scavenging for anything they can find and dropping their scraps everywhere else.

“Anybody that lives within close flying distance of the landfill knows that the eagles deposit this stuff everywhere,” said resident David Vogel to the Seattle Times.

At a city council meeting, Vogel held up a sealed plastic bag containing human blood that he said he’d found in his yard, just west of the landfill property.

Trash and plastic pollution can choke, poison, or otherwise harm eagles. Over 260 animal species, including invertebrates, turtles, fish, seabirds, and mammals, have been reported to ingest or become entangled in plastic debris, resulting in impaired movement and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers, and death.

Avery Thompson of Popular Mechanics wrote:

There’s something almost poetic about the American national bird reminding people that the trash they throw in a landfill doesn’t simply disappear. In a way, these birds are a visceral demonstration of the usually hidden consequences of extreme consumption. We create too much trash, and that much trash creates consequences. That could mean eagles dropping biohazard containers in your front lawn, or it could mean nearly 20 tons of plastic washing up on one of the most remote beaches in the world.

While some short-term solutions like closing a landfill or pulling trash out of the ocean might temporarily fix the problem, the only way to really live in a world where our trash doesn’t come back to haunt us is to be smarter about how much of it we create.

Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, said: “The Eagle, the National bird  of U.S. bringing bits of hazardous waste and plastic pollution back to our yards is both ironic and a wake up call. It’s time to stop polluting the planet with plastic for the health of humans and animals, and for the sake of the birds and the bees.”

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