On ‘National Drinking Straw Day,’ I’m Calling for Stronger Policies to End Plastic Pollution in National Parks—and Beyond

By Jackie Nuñez, Founder of the Last Plastic Straw and Plastic Pollution Coalition Advocacy & Engagement Manager

On National Drinking Straw Day, I’m calling for stronger policies to end plastic pollution in National Parks—and beyond. 

Near the close of last year’s legislative session, a late night amendment in an appropriations bill was introduced by Rep. John Rose (R-TN) to block the order issued in June 2022 by Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland to phase out single-use plastic on public lands by 2032. Rep. Rose specifically called to exempt plastic straws from the phase-out, arguing that the “alternatives to plastics may not be more environmentally friendly” than plastic, citing a recent study detecting PFAS—a class of more than 15,000 synthetic chemicals—in paper straws. A discussion of the amendment is now upcoming in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As Founder of The Last Plastic Straw, an organization committed to conveying the truths about single-use plastic plastic pollution, I must help put this misguided focus on plastic and paper straws to rest. Since 2011 I have advocated for straws upon request and banning the distribution of plastic straws and other single-use plastics, with exemptions made for those who truly need to use them.

Single-Use Plastics Do Not Belong In National Parks

The presence of PFAS in paper straws is concerning, but what’s more concerning is that this information is being used to defend the social license of plastic, which is far more toxic than paper straws. PFAS (known as “forever chemicals”) are a potent class of industrial chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, diminished immunity, metabolism disorders, and hormone disruption. They are commonly added to plastic items, and are sometimes used to coat items made of other materials to enhance their waterproof, nonstick, and other qualities. 

There are more than 13,000 chemicals found in commonly used plastics, at least 3,200 of which are known to be hazardous to human health—including many kinds of PFAS. Plastic straws and all plastic items pose physical threats to plants, wildlife, people, and ecosystems, as well as chemical dangers caused by plastic’s chemical additives and release of toxic micro- and nano-plastic particles

Many zoos, aquariums, and marine parks have long enforced policies prohibiting the sale and distribution of plastic straws to prevent harming the animals they house and their equipment. Yet, our public lands, which exist primarily for the conservation of nature, currently do not have the policies needed to stop single-use plastic from harming wildlife, plants and trees, and polluting our land, water, air, soils, and bodies. Our National Parks should not sell or distribute single-use plastics that end up polluting the very lands and waters the park system is supposed to protect.

The Reality of PFAS in Straws

CocoTruckPR coconuts with bamboo straws, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jackie Nuñez

So if we shouldn’t be using plastics in our parks, what is causing the confusion around plastic’s many alternatives, including paper straws? There are some important nuances to consider when assessing the presence of PFAS in paper and other plastic-alternative straws. 

I turned to PFAS expert Graham Peaslee, Concurrent Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame, and Co-founder, Chief Technical Officer, UMP Analytical, an expert on PFAS, for more clarification on PFAS toxicity in straws. (Peaslee was not involved in the straw research cited by Rep. Rose.) 

The concentrations seen in the paper straws…are too small to be the result of intentional addition of PFAS to the straw. The fact that there is such a wide variety of PFAS found in them helps support the idea that they come as contamination from many different sources—presumably as part of the recycled material used in the paper manufacturing process.

— Graham Peaslee

Peaslee added that the study’s sensitive measurements show how widespread PFAS contamination is in recycled paper. However, he also noted that the concentrations of PFAS found in the paper straws analyzed was a low level that did not seem intentionally added. Nor did the results seem to present an immediate public or environmental health threat, especially compared to other sources of PFAS. 

While conversations remain focused on plastic drinking straws, in reality it’s both the issues of plastic and single-use that is the problem. Rather than have an amendment to block the order to eliminate the sale and distribution of single-use plastic on public lands, the amendment should require that any alternative replacement to single-use plastics—whether single-use or reusable—must be at minimum, third- party certified as free of PFAS and other toxic chemicals. Ultimately, if you do not need to use a plastic straw, choosing no straw or a reusable straw is your best option. 

Of course plastic-free, non-toxic, and endlessly reusable bamboo, glass, and stainless steel straws, cutlery, and foodware are always a better option than any single-use item, plastic or otherwise. Reducing wastefulness at the source is the core part of all solutions to plastic pollution. Adding specificity to U.S. policies regulating plastic and its alternatives to require third-party material certification would be a major step in helping to eliminate wasteful plastic pollution as well as toxic chemicals on a wider scale. 

Take Action

To end plastic pollution, we must significantly cut plastic production, and the U.S. can do that by implementing stronger policies that better help ensure the safety of plastic’s replacements, while prioritizing reuse over single-use. Instead of picking on paper straws in order to gut policies that could help end plastic pollution, policymakers should strive to establish effective, nontoxic reuse systems that allow us to waste less.

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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.

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Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator; and Dr. Pete Myers, Founder, CEO, and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, testified in December 2022 before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight. Both are scientific experts on plastic and Plastic Pollution Coalition Advisors. This is the first time such a hearing has been convened to discuss the plastic pollution crisis.

WATCH

Shifting the Narrative

Historically, the plastics and fossil fuel industries, government interests, and those who benefit economically and politically from plastics have maintained control of the narrative around plastics as the material continues to harm the entire human population and degrade the Earth. That’s why plastic pollution continues growing worse, not better, despite the “solutions” that industries, governments, and corporations promise. 

Opening the hearing, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the Chairman of the Subcommittee, laid out key facts about the plastic pollution crisis and its wide range of harmful consequences for people and the planet. Merkley stated that the ways we have previously attempted to solve plastic pollution have fallen far short in addressing the core cause of the problem: continued plastic production.

“Now most of us have heard of the three Rs, reduce, reuse, recycle. That sounds like a magical way to address this challenge. But here’s the story with plastics: it’s not three Rs, it’s three Bs: They’re buried, they’re burned, or they’re borne out to sea.”

— Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

The problem with plastic is that it was not designed to be recycled, and despite the plastic industry’s claims that plastic is being recycled, very little of it is actually getting another life. And even in the rare cases when plastics are recycled, an even greater challenge with this material exists: plastics are toxic.

Dr. Pete Myers was the first expert to testify, focusing on the toxicity of plastics and the numerous ways it harms human health, primarily by disrupting how hormones work in the human body. According to Dr. Myers, what’s at stake is no less than human survival.

“Over the last five decades there has been a 50% decline in sperm count in adult men. Just this past month a study came out to see that the rate of decline is speeding up, it’s not slowing down, and it’s global. Not just sperm count but other features of male and female infertility are worsening also. If the current rate of sperm count declines, it will decline asymptotically to zero by the 2040s.”

— Dr. Pete Myers, Founder, CEO, and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences

Similarly, Judith Enck in her testimony presented serious facts about how plastics—especially single-use plastics—cause widespread harm and environmental injustice, and highlighted the real solutions which will significantly and meaningfully reduce plastic pollution and injustice.

“We need major new federal legislation to significantly reduce the production, use, and disposal of plastics, and we need it now….my primary recommendation is for Congress to adopt a law establishing the goal of reducing the production of plastic by 50% over the next 10 years and providing enforcement mechanisms and federal funding to achieve this goal.”

— Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator

 End Industry Interference

Despite the alarming facts about plastic now more clear than ever, and with a wave of awareness of the crisis growing, industries and some members of government appear to be prioritizing profits over people. As is unfortunately common practice, at this hearing like at others, members of government appear to be “inviting the fox into the henhouse” when allowing industries to comment on how their businesses should be regulated.

In addition to Myers and Enck, the other two speakers invited to testify at the hearing included plastic industry representatives Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, which is historically the plastic industry’s most vocal and impactful trade group, and Eric Hartz, co-founder and president of “advanced recycling” corporation Nexus Circular. 

The industry representatives in their testimony chose to not discuss facts or the dire health and social issues plastic causes. Instead, they presented false “solutions,” specifically various forms of plastic “recycling,” which delay real action and enable corporations to produce ever-increasing amounts of plastics for ever-increasing profits. The industry reps also discussed at length the economic implications of making plastics—something that matters to multi-billion dollar fossil fuel and plastics corporations—not everyday people who are worst harmed.

Support Real Solutions

Photo by Preston Keres/USDA

While the industry testimony contrasted sharply with the testimony of Enck and Myers, during the questioning round the scientific experts were quick to set the record straight on the industry’s false information. Enck and Myers also submitted invaluable written testimony laying out the truths about “advanced recycling” and other dangerous industry-drive false solutions—and explaining why these harmful technologies must be avoided.What’s more, they focused on real, systemic solutions that will solve the problem—if we support them and can allow plastic facts to override plastic industry fiction.

Senator Merkley is sponsor of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which is focused on: 

  • Addressing environmental injustices
  • Improving recycling to the degree that can make a difference
  • Eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics by supporting systems of reduction, refill, and reuse
  • Increasing industry and corporate responsibility for plastics
  • Introducing a strong national bottle bill to ensure plastics are collected
  • Other measures to reduce the harms of plastics while reinforcing useful systems and values that protect and support people and the planet

“Pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, pass the National Bottle Bill, pass a sensible law called the Plastic Reduction and Recycling Research Act, also known as EPR, which has been introduced in state legislatures around the country. We don’t need a magical breakthrough, we need reduction, refill, and reuse, and if you absolutely cannot reduce or refill and reuse, then rely on paper, metal, glass. Get the toxics out, particularly out of the paper, and make sure that that material is made from recycled content and are easily recyclable.”

— Judith Enck

Together we can build a more just, equitable world free of plastic pollution! Learn more about the facts and solutions, and take action: sign petitions on important plastics issues, and pledge to cut your own plastic use.

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The state of California is the 7th ranked producer of crude oil among 50 states and one of the top plastics-industry employers in the U.S. As state, national, and global restrictions limit fossil fuel use for energy, industries dealing in petrochemicals are increasingly turning to making plastics to stay profitable. Yet, there is positive traction taking hold in California. With the state’s long history of progressive public health, social justice, and ecological legislation, we are seeing a clear pattern of commitment to addressing these important issues.

In just the last week, Los Angeles (LA) City Council passed three plastic-reduction ordinances supported by activist and frontline groups that ban distribution and sale of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam products, close state plastic bag ban loopholes within the city, and require city departments to implement zero-waste practices at city facilities and events. Additionally, San Diego also approved an ordinance banning EPS foam products. 

On a statewide level, the latest related legislation to pass includes:

  • SB 54: called the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, many agree that SB 54 does not go nearly far enough in regulating production and use of plastic packaging and single-use plastic foodware
  • AB 1857: eliminates an incentive for waste incineration, hopefully opening a pathway to close incinerators, and establishment of a “Zero-Waste Equity Grant Program” to support zero-waste solutions in frontline communities
  • SB 1046: bans plastic “pre-checkout” bags like those used to hold loose produce and baked goods by 2025, after which point all “pre-checkout” bags must be compostable
  • SB 1013: expands California’s existing bottle-return and recycling program to include glass and polyethylene (PET) wine and spirits containers
  • AB 2638: requires all new school construction or renovation projects submitted to the state include one or more water bottle refill stations
  • SB 1137: mandates 3,200-foot setbacks from oil and gas operations across the state from places where people live, work, attend school, and recreate
  • SB 270: bans (with exceptions) most single-use plastic grocery bags

In California there are approximately 158 plastics ordinances representing 144 cities (counting San Francisco as a county not a city) and 14 counties. The total population covered by these ordinances equals roughly 18 million people (including unincorporated county numbers), which is roughly 46% of the total population of the state of California (based on rounded 2019 population statistics).

– Craig Cadwallader, Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter Coordinator

While this surge of legislation shows that a growing amount of attention is being paid to the serious consequences of plastic pollution relating to injustice, public health, environmental protection, and more, challenges remain. With such legislation, especially SB 54, plastic and fossil fuel industry interests conflict with the task of creating tough, enforceable regulations that successfully address the core causes of plastic pollution: continued plastics production and fossil fuel use. And it seems loopholes are frequently left open for continued plastic use, such as with SB 270, which still allows some single-use plastic bags to be distributed. Still, California is making major progress.

For the 2021–2022 California Legislative Session, the Clean Seas Lobbying Coalition was honored to continue to be at the forefront of sponsoring and supporting a suite of bills, many now signed into law, geared towards true policy solutions for reducing plastic pollution and its detriments, from extraction to disposal. We also take pride in helping to make bills better, or opposing any false solution efforts that are anything but true waste reduction or transitioning to reuse. The last two years were a great success, and we look forward to more good work to be done in 2023 and beyond.

– Genevieve Abedon, Ecoconsult, on behalf of The Clean Seas Lobbying Coalition

Los Angeles Bans New Oil and Gas Drilling

California's New Policies

On December 2, LA City Council made a historic unanimous decision to ban all new oil and gas drilling, and to stop activities related to fossil fuel extraction at all of the city’s existing well operations within the next two decades. This change comes after years of advocacy and organizing by frontline communities, who continue to call for swift government action to address growing environmental injustice and pollution caused by the intentional placement of fossil fuel extraction sites in communities of color.

The ordinance will amend racist land-use rules that have long allowed industries and governments to concentrate fossil fuel extraction activities and infrastructure in Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/x communities. It goes further than the recently signed SB 1137, a statewide ban on placement of new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of places where people live, work, and play across California. 

Frontline groups caution that the LA ordinance stops far short of fully rectifying the many forms of racism their communities experience every day. Its timeline for phasing out wells is lengthy, and it fails to set forth a clear path for plugging and remediating decommissioned wells. Still, many say the decision is a step forward in efforts to address injustice, pollution, and the climate crisis, and sets a positive example for other municipalities.

Local Change Can Help Inspire Systemic Change

California's New Policies 2
Projection in Punta del Este, Uruguay, during INC-1 Global Plastics Treaty negotiatons. © Greenpeace / Manuela Lourenço

California’s recent actions on fossil fuels and plastics is encouraging as it has helped draw national and international attention to the toxic truths about these substances and the industries that produce them. However, the persistence of plastic’s pollution and injustice shows us only systemic solutions—not piecemeal efforts—will work. 

The same day that LA passed its new fossil fuel ordinance, negotiators in Uruguay wrapped up the first round of talks to craft a global plastics treaty addressing plastics production. How that treaty is shaped will mean the difference between immensely increased suffering or vastly reduced struggle for people and nature to survive changes caused by a warming climate on an increasingly polluted planet. 

With the global treaty, as with most other pieces of plastics and fossil fuel legislation, industry and government interests are perceived as threats to the shaping of an impartial, effective agreement that does what’s necessary to end plastic pollution and implement real solutions. The plastics and fossil fuel industries and the governments that tax and subsidize them have a lot to lose in the financial sense that industry influence can be seen in some of the legislation to emerge in California, at a disadvantage to the people and ecosystems harmed by plastics and fossil fuels.

We will continue to advocate for local, national, and federal policy change in the U.S. as well as a legally binding global plastics treaty that holds polluters accountable, supports justice and equitable solutions, identifies the connection between plastics and fossil fuels, and turns off the plastic tap. California’s escalating multifaceted efforts to address the devastation caused by plastics and fossil fuels is generally positive and encouraging, and should help inspire action on a wider scale.

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

Help End Plastic Pollution!

It’s important to continue to enact legislation in the city of Los Angeles, the state of California, and globally that recognizes the insidious interconnected nature of plastics and fossil fuels, and the negative impacts they have on communities and the environment. We also need to ensure that policies focus on implementing solutions that prioritize the health and well-being of people and the environment over industry and government profits. 

It’s up to us to continue advocating for the world we want to see. Learn more about plastic pollution and take action today!

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Earlier this year, the United Nations (UN) agreed on a mandate to negotiate a legally binding treaty addressing the full life cycle of plastics. This month, the first of five planned sessions to formulate that treaty began, with the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-1) in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. Representatives from UN Environment Assembly governments, the private sector, and civil society—including Plastic Pollution Coalition members and partners from the Break Free From Plastic global movement—attended the meeting. With some positive developments come significant challenges, such as industry interests that run counter to ending plastic pollution, which must be overcome in order to craft an effective global agreement.

On Monday morning, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Volker Türk made an unprecedented statement about plastics on Twitter:

“The whole cycle of plastics is now a global threat to human rights. We must ensure free, active, meaningful and informed participation in the new negotiations. We need clear boundaries on conflict of interest to ensure the new Treaty puts people before profits.”

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights

Never before has there been wider recognition of the fact that plastic pollution is an urgent global crisis. Plastic pollution is a human health, social justice, environmental, climate, and wildlife issue. People and communities across the world are finally waking up to the fact that plastic pollution impacts everything. Plastics pollute from the moment their fossil fuel ingredients are extracted from the Earth to their eventual fate as microplastics that we are breathing in and consuming in our foods and water—at great risk to our health.

Member Countries Divided on the Way Forward

There is widespread agreement that a Global Plastics Treaty is needed. Individuals, activist groups, frontline communities, and scientists from around the world are speaking out about what’s necessary to make the Treaty effective.

During this week’s negotiations it emerged that major oil and gas producing nations like the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and many Asian countries are proposing an agreement where countries would create their own National Action Plans and set their own non-binding targets.

“The US is calling for a treaty with no binding obligations and no requirements to achieve its goal, such as bans on toxic polymers or a reduction in overall production. Every country just does what it wants to. I think that’s a terrible idea.”

Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

A “high-ambition coalition” of countries led by Norway and Rwanda is calling for a curb in plastic production and a phase-out of certain plastic products and toxic chemical additives. Many other UN member states, including African nations, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, and others are also advocating for a global approach.

Top UN officials weighed in as well. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights statement identified key human rights considerations for the Global Plastics Treaty. On the final day of INC-1, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent a strong message:

“Plastics are fossil fuels in another form & pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate & biodiversity. As negotiations towards an agreement to #BeatPlasticPollution continue, I call on countries to look beyond waste and turn off the tap on plastic.”

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

Allies Criticize Industry Participation in the Negotiations

Break Free From Plastic allies and activists conveyed the message that an effective Global Plastics Treaty must address plastic production and the toxic chemicals in plastics. Downstream solutions like cleanups and reduction legislation like bans do not go far enough to stem the plastic tide. The Plastic Treaty must address environmental injustices and hold corporations, especially petrochemical and plastics companies, and governments, accountable for their roles in creating the plastic crisis. This is why the presence of major plastic producers at INC-1 is a major source of concern for civil society groups, environmentalists, Indigenous groups, and frontline activists.

“To date, the plastics and petrochemical industries have largely self-regulated. This, despite the fact that plastic’s many forms of pollution now pollute every part of our environment and have entered our bodies. Plastic contaminates our waters, soil, air, food, wildlife; our bodies and our children’s bodies. We need a strong, binding global treaty that stops plastic pollution at the source—petrochemical production. We can not afford to allow polluters to continue regulating themselves.”

Jackie Nuñez, PPC Advocacy and Engagement Manager & Founder of The Last Plastic Straw

Break Free From Plastic Allies Deliver Powerful Messages to the UN

Projection on a beach in Uruguay at INC-1 on November 29, 2022. Photo credit: Fenceline Watch & Break Free From Plastic

Powerful remarks were delivered by many partners and allies at the meeting, including this statement by the BFFP US Environmental Justice Delegation. Christopher Chin, Executive Director, The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), delivered the following statement on November 29, 2022, at INC-1:

“Our understanding of plastic — and its polluting impacts on the environment, climate, human rights, and human health — has evolved greatly over the years, and has led us to these negotiations.

One of the things that has become ever more clear is that we do not have time to waste. We are currently producing more than 400 million tons of plastics per year, and we are already drowning in plastic pollution. . . And that production is planned to double or even triple to many hundreds of millions of tons each year. This scale of production is already creating an urgent crisis — a common concern of humankind — and our very future hangs in the balance of these proceedings.

Let’s be honest: 99% of what goes into plastic is fossil fuels; plastics are essentially fossil fuel in a different format, and we cannot address plastic pollution without addressing plastic production. We must put limitations on the amount of plastics being produced, because we are already drowning.

The fact is that our society is overflowing with plastic, and we have allowed this to happen. It is more than just an indulgence, however — this is literally killing people.

A clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a recognized human right — and a right for all, not just a privilege for some.

Dr. Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights has noted that there are human rights infringements across the entire life cycle of plastic, and we’ve seen and heard that these effects are most dire for vulnerable populations.

Industry must stop producing toxic materials and stop using toxicants in the production of plastics.  We need transparency so that we can identify and avoid hazardous substances and additives — not only in the production and use of materials and products, but also in their reuse, disposal, and end of life. There is absolutely no room for circularity when potentially poisonous substances are hidden in the waste stream.

Innovation will most certainly be necessary as we pursue a future free of plastic pollution. However, innovation should include scalable systems of re-use and refilling — for example — and not simply new ways to try to sell old ideas.

There is no room and no time for false solutions like so-called ‘advanced recycling’ and ‘chemical recycling.’ These terms are just a fancy way to mask the burning of plastic, and they cannot meet the scale of the onslaught of plastics production we are facing.

With the very industry creating plastic and plastic pollution weighing in so strongly in the discussion of possible solutions, industry’s self-serving interest is painfully obvious.

We can no longer continue to put profit before the planet, and we can no longer continue to put profit before people.

Previous processes on the environment — such as climate change — leave civil society tired of empty promises and goals that have not been met. The plastics pollution treaty must establish the global rules, regulations, and support mechanisms needed to end plastic pollution and its harmful effects on the environment, animals, human health, and vulnerable communities.

We will judge the treaty not by what it promises, but by what it actually does.”

Christopher Chin, Executive Director, The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE)

Take Action

Plastic Pollution Coalition supports legislative and regulatory solutions that address the plastic pollution crisis at the source, reduce plastic production and use, center environmental justice, extend producer responsibility by holding corporations accountable, and create policies that support a regenerative circular economy free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts.

“Plastic threatens human health at every stage of its existence, from extraction of plastic’s fossil fuel ingredients to production, use, transportation, and disposal. The new plastics treaty must address plastic as a material, beginning with production, and safeguard the human right to a healthy environment, particularly for women, children, and vulnerable communities impacted by this global planetary crisis.”

Julia Cohen, MPH, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Plastic Pollution Coalition

Further Global Plastics Treaty negotiations are tentatively planned on the following dates and locations:

Learn more about real solutions to the plastic crisis here, and add your name in support of a strong Global Plastics Treaty.

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