Youth Leaders Urge Congress to Pass Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, But Don’t Stop There

Over the weekend, the U.S. Senate passed and voted on new amendments to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider and pass the legislation, before it is sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. As its name suggests, the Inflation Reduction Act’s main goal is to tackle one of voters’ biggest concerns today: rising inflation that is making everyday life more costly for everyone in the country. As it’s been shaped, the legislation may not make massive cuts in inflation—but it is now poised to provide the largest federal clean energy investment in U.S. history, at around $370 billion. It is also designed to reduce the cost of some prescription drugs and establish a tax on big corporations that could help reduce the federal deficit.

Many environmental and social justice groups have reacted to the Inflation Reduction Act’s climate provisions, showing a range of stances from overwhelming approval to complete opposition. Some lay in the middle, pointing out the benefits of such a large investment in clean energy, environmental justice, and remediation while emphasizing that, at present, the act appears to perpetuate harmful industry activities such as fossil fuel exploitation and mining. Among those taking up a moderate position are many youth leaders, including several Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassadors, who have been calling for urgent climate action.

Pass this bill, but don’t pat yourselves on the back. Though it’s flawed and not enough, this would still constitute the largest climate investment by any country in world history. That’s a start, but it’s still less than what our generation deserves. As young people, we’re often called unrealistic or naīve for demanding the world as it should be, rather than accepting the world as it is. After a year and a half of negotiation, this bill is what can pass the Senate right now, and its passage can give us a better chance of winning the next climate fights ahead.

Youth Leaders, in their letter to Congress

Read the full letter from youth leaders here, and learn more about how plastic pollution impacts the global climate.


The plastic industry has convinced us that recycling will reverse the toxic impact of plastic—while it keeps right on polluting. Here’s what you can do to fight back.

By Erica Cirino

Eating out at a seaside restaurant in Suffolk County, Long Island, not long ago, I was served a drink with a paper straw, the result of local legislation designed to curb plastic pollution. In Suffolk, distributing single-use plastic straws and stirrers, foam cups, and plastic containers and bags is now illegal, punishable by a fine.

To me, that straw looked more like a problem than a solution. Although targeting consumer behavior can reduce local plastic use and litter, this kind of legislation can’t make a dent in the plastic crisis. Besides being too piecemeal to significantly reduce humanity’s plastic footprint, bans on items like plastic straws fail to attack the problem at the source: the companies churning out increasing amounts of the stuff.

If straw laws are absurd, what about the more ubiquitous practice of plastic recycling? It has the same flaws, perhaps reducing local litter but failing to address the fundamental cause of the crisis. Recycling diverts attention from the continued production of plastic by an actively expanding industry and infrastructure. Massive lobbying and public relations efforts by the plastic supply chain ensure that we never see the truth. Their outrageous narrative, that the public must bear responsibility for the plastic piling up all over the planet, leaves them free to make more of it and leaves the rest of us perpetually stuck.

Since 1950, more than 10 billion metric tons of plastics have been manufactured worldwide, with the most of it incorporated into the deadly global waste trade. Collectively, 79 percent of the plastic humans have thrown away is piled up in landfills and scattered across the land and in the oceans. It’s turned out to be horrendously difficult to truly recycle plastic because there are so many types, and each category has to be separated out for a recycling process of its own. Because that isn’t feasible, just 9 percent of plastic has been recycled; the rest has been incinerated or sent to landfills.

Plastic is much more than a nuisance and a visual blight. Its production emits climate-warming greenhouse gases, toxic chemicals, and plastic particles into soil, air, and water. Plastic that is littered or dumped or otherwise escapes into nature sickens and kills wildlife and plants. Chemical-laced microplastic particles can now be found commonly in plants and in the bodies of animals—including humans. Research linking plastic to human health problems is still underway, but the health issues linked to thousands of chemical components commonly found in plastic are already well established.

Microplastic in the waters off Kamilo Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. Credit: Erica Cirino

To the frontline communities living close to petroleum extraction sites, refineries, plastic factories, landfills, recycling centers, waste shipping hubs, incinerators, and illegal dumps, the problems with plastic have long been apparent. Many of these communities have been speaking out for decades and were among the first to hold industries accountable, with varying levels of cooperation from government. African-Americans and other people of color are particularly vulnerable to the potentially deadly consequences of plastic production, from the emissions of cancer-causing dioxins to the asthma-inducing, immune-suppressing, hormone-disrupting particulate matter from factories where it is made. Redlining—the practice of denying financial and other services to minority groups in specific neighborhoods—and the expansion of the petrochemical and plastic industries have conspired to shape a landscape where Black people are 75 percent more likely than whites to live in proximity to industry and more likely to breathe polluted air.

“It’s like they want us to die off,” Sharon Lavigne, founder of the faith-based environmental justice organization RISE St. James, told me. Lavigne, like most of her neighbors in the community of Welcome, in St. James Parish, Louisiana, is Black. Residents there are working hard to stop an enormous plastic complex from being built in their community by an arm of the Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Group.

Despite all the harm, industry is positioned to produce vastly greater amounts of plastic in years to come. In 2019 plastic producers reported creating about 368 million metric tons of plastic. That number is expected to surge to 1.5 billion metric tons per year by 2050 as petrochemical infrastructure expands globally. Instead of developing specific plans for handling this spiraling mess, the plastics industry continues to spread misinformation that perpetuates limited interventions like recycling and paper straws while steadfastly resisting the real solution, a dramatic reduction in plastic production.

Green turtle deals with plastic blight at a bleached reef off the coast of Honolulu. Credit: Erica Cirino

The plastics industry has infiltrated the media.

The plastics industry has infiltrated the media,” Stiv Wilson, codirector of the Peak Plastic Foundation and executive producer of the Emmy-winning film The Story of Plastic, explained to me in a phone call. The size of the new ethane crackers they’re building [crackers are plants that perform the first step in the process of transforming ethane—a component of natural gas—into plastic products] and the number of fracking wells being drilled to fuel more plastic production tell you the industry’s true intention. Their approach is to distract people so they can keep producing.”

For instance, in one of a series of public relations plays, American Chemistry Council’s plastics division—America’s Plastic Makers, a lobbying group that represents Shell, BASF, ExxonMobil, Dow, and many other Council members—held a virtual “custom” symposium in September 2021 that seemed to be a media event facilitated by the Wall Street Journal. The online event was, in fact, an advertorial moderated by Phillipa Leighton-Jones, the editor and anchor of WSJ’s branded-content arm, The Trust. With her were Bob Patel, then CEO of petrochemical giant LyondellBasell and former chairman of the American Chemistry Council, and his co-panelist, Jim Fitterling, who is the current council chairman and Dow CEO and chairman.

When discussing solutions to the plastics crisis, the executives focused on “advanced recycling,” referring to various means of melting down plastic into simpler petrochemical gases and liquids, some of which could hypothetically be used to make more plastic. In reality the plastic industry has no track record of recycling plastic this way at scale. So far, the method usually “turns plastic scrap into dirty fuel and toxic waste,” Martin Bourque, executive director of the Ecology Center in Berkeley, California, explains. “They are enabling increased production of plastic under the guise that it will be ‘recycled,’ when presently it is not.”

The companies cannot even fulfill their promises for current, non-advanced recycling. Most of the plastic that we haul to our curbs for recycling isn’t recyclable at all. It ends up getting diverted from the recycling stream and sent to be landfilled, incinerated, or shipped to developing nations where imported plastic is often illegally dumped or burned—sometimes just dozens of feet from people’s homes.

That marketing event produced by the WSJ’s advertising arm is just the tip of the industry’s disinformation iceberg. Some of the most widely viewed plastic-related messaging comes from Keep America Beautiful, an organization now based in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1953 executives of industries that benefit from the continued production and sale of plastic, including the beverage and tobacco industries (cigarette filters contain microplastics), and municipal representatives launched Keep America Beautiful to promote an ethos of national cleanliness. Its approach has been to inundate the public with guilt trip–inducing ads that posit the solution to the crisis as cleaning up and recycling.

In 1971 the organization launched its famous “Crying Indian” television ad campaign, featuring an Italian-American actor playing a Native American man who navigates idyllic nature scenes clogged with trash. The mess compels him to shed a single tear, an image that has been viewed billions of times. Noah Ullman, chief marketing officer at Keep America Beautiful, wrote to me that the ad’s “content is problematic” and that the organization will soon address this issue. Regardless of how it packages its message, though, the group stands by its push to make the public responsible for the plastics crisis. “We all need to have a shared responsibility for the convenience of our modern culture,” Ullman wrote.

Finding honest information about plastic pollution is tricky because it is hard to determine which “environmental” nonprofits are funded by the plastics industry and to discern what their true motives are. Sometimes affiliations are clear. The American Recyclable Bag Alliance, for instance, works hard to stop or water down legislation aimed at curbing the plastic crisis by defending the conventional plastic bag—even though plastic bags are not recyclable. In other cases, you have to do some digging. The biggest plastic-focused industry groups, like the Plastics Industry Association (commonly referred to as PLASTICS) and the American Chemistry Council, are now creating a tangle of greenwashed “solutions-based” organizations and campaigns, including the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and the group Positively PET, that paint plastic pollution as a problem consumers have created and can solve themselves. These kinds of groups also fund and advocate for dangerous ways to handle plastic such as advanced recycling, waste picking, and turning plastic waste into roads and other building materials.

Journalists and activists have recently made progress in exposing this strategy to shift the blame. In 2020 the Changing Markets Foundation published a comprehensive report shedding light on the plastic industry’s corporate playbook. “While they have been trying to present themselves as part of the solution, they have worked hard behind the scenes to delay and derail mandatory legislation, be it the introduction of deposit return systems or simple bans on problematic items such as plastic bags,” says Nuša Urbancic, campaigns director of the Changing Markets Foundation.

The plastic and petrochemical supply chains continue to refine their greenwashing campaigns.

Denka, operating in the former DuPont facility in LaPlace, La., produces the chemical chloroprene to manufacture neoprene synthetic rubber. EPA reclassified chloroprene as a likely carcinogen in 2010. Credit: Erica Cirino.

John Hocevar, Greenpeace’s Oceans Campaign director, has been working to expose the plastic industry’s tactics by confronting companies that engage in pro-plastic lobbying. For example, by attending industry conferences and public meetings, Greenpeace members have identified several major corporations that have publicly committed to addressing plastic pollution while quietly belonging to problematic lobbying groups. Such pressure has pushed several prominent brands including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, SC Johnson, and General Motors to withdraw their membership from PLASTICS.

“There’s such widespread concern about plastic pollution that everyone knows we have a problem and have to do something about it,” says Hocevar. Making more people aware that the industry bears primary responsibility for the crisis can be used to promote change. “It hurt PLASTICS a lot when many public-facing brands recently pulled out or let their membership lapse when pressed about their membership. Soon the group will be just another representative of the petrochemical sector; it won’t be able to speak for the whole supply chain anymore.”

For most environmentalists, the goal is to enact meaningful regulation of the plastics industry. In 2019 the European Union adopted the Single-Use Plastics Directive, which banned distribution of 10 plastic items commonly found as litter by 2021. The directive also placed fiscal responsibility for plastic collection, transport, treatment, cleanup, and public awareness on plastic producers instead of consumers. On a global scale, this legislation is a milestone. However, each EU country is individually tasked with meeting the directive’s requirements; most are struggling, in large part due to the opposition of the plastic industry, particularly its vocal and well-funded trade groups. The pandemic and associated exceptions some countries have made for sale and use of disposable personal protective equipment have delayed progress as well.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, reintroduced in the United States last year by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), has many of the same goals as the EU legislation. But it would inevitably face the same challenges with implementation and enforcement across state lines. Hocevar hopes for a global plastics treaty that could regulate pollution and environmental injustice on an international scale, facilitating a transition to zero-waste communities around the world. In 2021 the United States joined more than 150 nations in supporting the idea. No such treaty yet exists, however.

Meanwhile, the plastic industry just wants to make more plastic. To that end, trade groups and businesses linked to the plastic and petrochemical supply chains continue to refine their greenwashing campaigns. Recently they began supporting the creation of a global plastic treaty, but with the enormous stipulation that it fall under rules that benefit the industry. Those rules include a focus on false solutions, like the largely mythical “advanced recycling,” and go so far as to state that people should “recognize the role plastics play in a lower carbon future.”

A genuine move toward a low-carbon future will require changing our throwaway culture and addiction to fossil fuels—which is, of course, antithetical to the plastic industry’s profit motives. The long-running narrative of the plastic straw is a manipulative trope cunningly designed to thwart such genuine progress. Yes, straws often end up strewn along beaches. They can and do harm wildlife, and, like all plastic, they break up into tiny toxic plastic particles. But to hold these industries accountable, we must do a lot more than say no to plastic straws.

We must fundamentally shift our values to reflect the urgent need for environmental protection and remediation and move toward zero-waste practices. We’ve got to transition to renewable energy sources and eliminate hazards linked to plastic and fossil fuel use. Regulations, environmental lobbying, corporate calling-out, plastic and petrochemical divestment campaigns, and community organizing can help shape the future we need. The plastic industry may have gotten us into this mess, but good morals and a concerted effort to hold corporations, governments, and ourselves accountable can get us out. In that sense, at least, individual responsibility really does matter. Recycling has limited impact, but individual activism can lead to true change.

This story originally appeared on OpenMind, a digital magazine tackling science controversies and deceptions.


On June 30, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), a new state law supposedly designed to significantly reduce plastic pollution. However, many environmental and social justice groups have mixed feelings and some opposed SB 54—reflecting the challenging regulatory landscape within which plastic legislation is formulated, and industries’ outsized lobbying efforts which too often take center stage over human and environmental health.

Known as the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, SB 54 has been touted by lawmakers, some nonprofit organizations, and the media as the nation’s “toughest” set of rules aimed at regulating plastic packaging and single-use plastic foodware to date. However, that description misses the mark.

Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator, explains that SB 54 problematically:

  • Contains many loopholes for continued plastic use and production.
  • Is built on the foundation of plastic recycling, which has proven unsuccessful.
  • Does not explicitly prohibit plastic burning to be counted as recycling.
  • Does not ban polystyrene, even though it cannot be recycled.
  • Does not require that toxic chemicals such as PFAS be eliminated from packaging.
  • Inappropriately gives vast authority to packaging companies to self-regulate.

Each of these points is discussed in more detail below. Although SB 54 has been portrayed as having wide and bipartisan support, its lack of teeth and the speed at which it seemed to suddenly take shape suggests it’s been rather one-sidedly designed by the very industries it is supposed to regulate.

The Problems with SB 54

SB 54 could have been a comprehensive, useful piece of legislation—and it still could be, with heavy amendments that address the following key concerns:

SB 54 contains loopholes for continued plastic use and production.Under SB 54, plastic makers in California are required to reduce the use of plastics in their single-use products, including packaging and foodware, by just 10 percent in 5 years, and 25 percent in 10 years. The legislation encourages companies to make plastic reductions through redesigning packaging and reducing packaging size, utilizing non-plastic packaging materials, or making their products reusable or refillable. However, we’ve already seen in California and other states how loosely defined regulatory terms such as “reusable” and “refillable” have been stretched by industries to apply to toxic, non-recyclable plastics—which they continue to produce in prolific, harmful quantities.

SB 54 is built on the foundation of plastic recycling, which has proven unsuccessful.Another core component of the new legislation is to boost plastic recycling from its current rate of just 5 percent to 65 percent by 2032. Such an increase is effectively impossible given the fact that industries do not design plastic to be recycled—and in fact industries have used the false promise of recycling to perpetuate plastics production. Historically more than 90 percent of plastics have been dumped in landfills or the environment, or incinerated.

SB 54 does not explicitly prohibit plastic burning to be counted as recycling.What’s more, while SB 54 defines recycling as not encompassing incineration of plastic waste, it does not explicitly prohibit other types of plastic burning that are just as hazardous. Such ambiguity effectively greenlights industries’ continued use and likely ramping up of problematic polluting, climate-warming plastic burning—which they will undoubtedly write off as “recycling” as they’ve long been doing.

SB 54 does not ban polystyrene, even though it cannot be recycled.

The legislation does not explicitly ban sale and production of expanded polystyrene (EPS, aka Styrofoam). Instead, it requires that polystyrene become recyclable, which is highly unlikely. Advocates anticipate a series of challenges from polystyrene manufacturers that will drag on for years.

We celebrate the great promise of SB 54 for California and beyond—and we know that more work needs to be done. Surfrider will continue pushing for a statewide comprehensive ban on EPS, ensuring that advanced plastic burning (also known as chemical recycling) is not allowed in the state and supporting our allies striving for environmental justice.

Surfrider Foundation

SB 54 does not require that toxic chemicals such as PFAS be eliminated from packaging.Plastic’s petrochemical ingredients are mixed with any combination of more than 10,000 chemicals, thousands of which have been identified in the European Union as toxic, persistent, and/or bioaccumulating (hazardously accumulating in our bodies). One particularly risky class of chemicals commonly found in plastic are called PFAS (also called “forever” or “everywhere” chemicals)—which are extremely prevalent in plastics and other consumer products.

The health consequences of PFAS exposure are serious and far ranging, and include elevated blood pressure, infertility, thyroid problems, and several types of cancer. Despite their dangers, PFAS chemicals remain largely unregulated (some states in the U.S., such as Maine and Colorado, have made efforts to regulate products containing PFAS, as have some European countries). However, it’s critically important that PFAS and other toxic chemicals be eliminated from industrial activities and consumer products in the U.S. and globally.

SB 54 inappropriately gives vast authority to packaging companies to self-regulate.

SB 54 is set to establish a new private Producer Responsibility Organization run by the same companies that have created the problem. The plastic producers are required to create a fund that collects $5 billion over 10 years to clean up plastic pollution, particularly in underserved frontline communities. BIPOC, rural, and low-income people are disproportionately harmed by the myriad forms of plastic, chemical, and other hazards linked to plastics production, transportation, use, and disposal. Yet the fund is focused on treating the symptoms of continued plastic production instead of addressing the problem at the source by seriously restricting industries’ plastic production.

“It’s giving them the keys to the car. “Would you let the tobacco industry oversee anti-smoking initiatives?” Judith Enck recently told the LA Times, referring to SB 54.

Industry Opposes Strong Regulations Needed to Tackle Plastic Pollution

While the public is taking an increasingly favorable position on plastic regulations, the plastic and petrochemical industries have publicly spoken out against strict regulations that put power in the people’s hands. In California, the American Chemistry Council has threatened launching a “strong opposition campaign” against the “California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative” ballot measure—which it has pressured petitioners to withdraw, as it actively worked to water down the efficacy of SB 54. The ballot measure would have banned EPS foam, among other measures to eliminate plastic pollution through required industry action and responsibility.

In 2021, nearly 900,000 people in California voted to put the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act on the ballot in November 2022. The ballot measure, which would have held corporations financially responsible for the plastic they produce among other proven ways to reduce plastic pollution, is a more effective and comprehensive plan to curtail the production of single-use plastic packaging and foodware in California. As part of negotiations among lawmakers, environmentalists, and the plastics and petrochemical industries, when SB 54 passed, the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Act was kicked off the ballot.

While lawmakers and media outlets champion SB 54 in California, the plastics and petrochemical industries only plan to ramp up plastic production into the future. Currently, the plastics and petrochemical industries produce about 400 million metric tons of plastic per year; that number is expected to increase to 1.2 billion metric tons by 2060. Clearly their ambitions are at odds with this new regulation and the best interests of the public and underserved communities in particular.

SB 54 Must Be Strengthened to Be Effective

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, hold corporations accountable through extended producer responsibility (EPR), and policy that supports a regenerative circular economy free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts. While it’s excellent to see lawmakers pushing forth legislation to address plastic pollution, it is critical to support the passage of stronger, more effective legislation. SB 54 in its current form is not strong enough.

Just as we have mandatory fuel efficiency standards for cars, we need strong environmental standards for packaging. While I appreciate the intentions that went into passing the California Extended Producer Responsibility bill into law, the new law misses the mark on many key points. EPR laws should require that packaging be eliminated, refillable or reusable at a 50% rate over 10 years. The foundation of any packaging law should require the actual reduction of all packaging.

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

In New York State, the recently introduced Assembly Bill 10185 provides an example of an effective EPR bill which takes the aforementioned considerations into mind and addresses them in a common-sense manner, requiring the State to enact and enforce companies’ plastics reduction efforts.

Ideally, amendments to SB 54 would implement strategies that more significantly and rapidly reduce plastic and other types of packaging, clarify murky points in the present legislation that can be exploited by industries, and include strict enforcement of producer responsibility for plastic pollution, among other key measures.

In the meantime, the passage of yet another industry-friendly piece of legislation leaves people and our planet vulnerable to continued harm from the plastics and petrochemical industries—and wastes taxpayer time, money, and effort that could be spent on real solutions.

There’s a famous speech in 1957 where a marketing guy showed up at a plastics industry conference and said, ‘the future of plastic is in the trash can’…if you can convince people to throw it away.

Jackie Nuñez

From June 13–16, 2022; activists from across the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement converged on Washington D.C. to lobby members of Congress to sign on to/co-sponsor the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. The proposed legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA), builds on the successes of U.S. state laws and represents the most comprehensive set of policy solutions to the plastic pollution crisis ever introduced in Congress. 

Jackie Nuñez (@NoPlasticStraws) is Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Advocacy & Engagement Manager and the Founder of The Last Plastic Straw. For 11 years, Jackie has met with policymakers and industry leaders across the world advocating for a plastic-free future. From June 13–16, Jackie took part in the “Break Free From Plastic Week of Action” with allies from across the country. She sat down to tell us what was happening on the ground, next steps, policy updates, and more.

Interviewing Jackie is Erica Cirino, Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Communications Manager. Erica has spent the last decade working as a science writer, author, and artist exploring the intersection of the human and nonhuman worlds. She is best known for her widely published photojournalistic works that cut through plastic industry misinformation and injustice to deliver the often shocking and difficult truths about this most ubiquitous and insidious material. In her recent award-winning book, Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis (Island Press, 2021), she documents plastic across ecosystems and elements; shares stories from the primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous and rural communities that are disproportionately harmed by industrial pollution globally; and uncovers strategies that work to prevent plastic from causing further devastation to our planet and its inhabitants.


BREAKING – The U.S. Government has announced it will evaluate its practices for addressing plastic pollution by reducing the purchasing of unnecessary single-use plastics.  

A February 2022 petition led by the Center of Biological Diversity and supported by 180 other community and conservation groups named the U.S. government as the largest consumer of goods and services in the world. In response, the Government Services Administration (GSA) has called for public comment to help shape the future rules in purchasing single-use plastics contained within agency contracts. This historic move would greatly contribute to an overall reduction in the demand for single-use plastics nationwide and abroad.

I hope this incredibly promising development marks the start of a federal commitment to strike at the root of the plastic pollution crisis. The Biden administration has a real opportunity to stem the toxic tide of single-use plastic that’s pouring into our oceans, killing our wildlife, and contaminating our bodies. To protect human health and our environment, the federal government needs to lead the way in radically reducing plastic use.

Emily Jeffers, the Center attorney who authored the petition

This announcement is the latest for the Biden administration, which has steadily taken action over the past year to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics—from calling for federal agencies to minimize plastic waste, to supporting a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty, to phasing out single-use plastics in national parks. Both actions are included in steps of the Presidential Plastics Action Plan and in The Federal Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act

The Presidential Action Plan was proposed by 550 groups in Dec 2020, asking Biden to solve the plastic pollution crisis with eight executive priority actions on plastic that Biden can take without Congress:

  1. Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single-use plastic items and replace them with reusable products;
  2. Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities, associated infrastructure projects, and exports;
  3. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions; 
  4. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors;
  5. Update existing federal regulations using the best available science and technology to curtail pollution from plastic facilities;
  6. Stop subsidizing plastic producers;
  7. Join international efforts to address the global plastic pollution crisis through new and strengthened multilateral agreements;
  8. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of abandoned, discarded and lost fishing gear.

You can take action today to help reduce and eliminate toxic plastics by signing on to support the Federal Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act! Use this link to send a letter to your representative and ask them to co-sponsor this landmark proposed legislation to guarantee a plastic-free future for the health and future of humans, animals, waterways, oceans, and the environment.

Action Alert! On Thursday, June 30, at 11:30am EST, the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change will hold a virtual hearing to discuss the CLEAN Future Act, legislation aimed at cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050. Waste reduction is a major aspect of the CLEAN Future Act’s comprehensive set of carbon-cutting policies, and recycling is a major focus. While the legislation does have some good points, unfortunately, it includes several problematic provisions. Along with our allies at Break Free From Plastic and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), we’re especially concerned about the CLEAN Future Act classifying waste incineration as a form of low-carbon energy—effectively undermining plastic and other waste-reduction measures, in addition to sabotaging clean energy goals.

Waste incineration, or “waste-to-energy” as it is often called by industry, is neither a clean nor a renewable energy source. As GAIA has revealed, incineration produces more greenhouse emissions than any other kind of energy production, including burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. Incinerators are also disproportionately located in BIPOC, rural, and low-income areas, directly exposing vulnerable communities to the toxic chemicals emitted by burning plastic and other waste. Last year, we at Plastic Pollution Coalition joined over 100 groups calling for removal of incineration from the CLEAN Future Act.

Ironically, the bill contradicts itself in several ways. First, it makes what seems like a serious commitment to addressing and correcting environmental injustice. Additionally, the CLEAN Future Act makes clear that waste incineration and other forms of plastic burning (called “chemical recycling” by the plastic and petrochemical industries) are not recycling. It also incentivizes reducing waste at the source through product redesign and redevelopment. Unless changes are made to this bill, these positive aspects will be undermined by the waste-to-energy provisions, which would only continue to harm frontline communities, emit more greenhouse gases and pollutants, and perpetuate the creation of more plastic and other waste.

Your voice matters! We’re asking our friends, allies, and supporters to call your representatives today, Wednesday, June 29,and tell them to eliminate incineration from the CLEAN Future Act. We need to stop greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution at the source, and protect our most vulnerable communities from further harm.


Below is a sample call script to use and share.

Hello, my name is _____. I’m calling to ask Representative _____ to remove waste incineration from the CLEAN Future Act. The inclusion of waste-to-energy as “clean electricity” undermines the very positive environmental justice protections in the bill and will set the country back from its goals of addressing the climate crisis. Waste-to-energy facilities are actually the dirtiest source of energy production on the grid today, emitting almost twice as much carbon dioxide as coal, oil, and gas. 79% of waste-to-energy facilities are located in environmental justice communities, adding to the burden of air pollution from particulate matter, dioxins, lead, mercury, and other toxins that threaten their health and well-being. Please don’t jeopardize a clean future for the country by propping up dirty energy!