Filtered Not Bottled: Protecting Communities from the Toxic Impacts of Lead and Plastic

The U.S. government recently approved $15 billion dollars to replace toxic lead water pipes, also known as service lines, which an estimated 22 million people rely on across the country. The government has said it will prioritize communities with the highest lead exposure levels and most pressing environmental justice concerns. This is good news, but we need to make sure these funds are not used to replace lead with another harmful toxic material—plastic

Plastic Pollution Coalition has two urgent recommendations for municipalities and states that can protect community health and prioritize non-plastic solutions:

  1. Filtered Not Bottled. All households impacted by lead service line replacements should be provided with options for filtered water, not plastic bottles. Single-use plastic water bottles, like all plastics, are a health threat to people and the environment at every stage of their existence.
  2. Plastic-Free Pipes. Lead service pipes should be replaced with non-toxic materials, not plastics like PVC. Plastics can introduce additional toxic chemicals into the water with which they come into contact, further impacting community health.
Plastic is Not a Safe Replacement For Lead
Toxic Impacts of Lead and Plastic 2

During community lead-pipe replacement projects, state or local governments typically provide affected homes with bottled water for drinking and cooking. Yet, opting for single-use plastic water bottles simply swaps one toxic problem for another. 

Single-use plastics pose health risks at every step of their lifecycle, from production to disposal. Plastic production, shipping, use, and disposal pollutes the air, water, and soil. Low-income, rural, and BIPOC frontline/fenceline communities are unfairly targeted for plastic infrastructure, activities, and waste, causing widespread injustice. Plastic contributes to elevated rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and creates risk of fire and explosions where it is made and stored. Plastics are made of fossil fuels, and are significant contributors to the climate crisis.

Plastic water bottles leach toxic chemicals and microplastic particles into the water they carry, which people drink. Plastic water bottles contain polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are known to disrupt important human hormone functions

Most plastic water bottles, like all plastic items, are not recycled. Instead, plastics are commonly sent to landfills or incinerators, are shipped overseas, or are dumped and open-burned. Plastic poses additional health risks to communities located near plastic disposal facilities, infrastructure, and dumping sites. All plastic items break up into dangerous microplastics, which are found in human blood, lungs, placentas, feces, and breastmilk, and can disrupt the body’s hormone system and activate harmful inflammation to cause disease. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful health effects of plastic.

Lead-impacted Communities Need Filtered Water Now
Toxic Impacts of Lead and Plastic

According to a recent study, there are as many as 12 million lead pipes carrying water into 22 million people’s homes in the United States. Lead exposure is extremely dangerous to children, harming brain development, bone and muscle growth, and nervous system and kidney function. Lead pipes and the drinking water these pipes contaminate constitutes a public health emergency. The intentional placement of cheap lead pipes in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the United States is an environmental injustice crisis. States and cities across the U.S. must act quickly to remove toxic lead pipes and protect the children and families impacted by lead exposure.

Government funds for lead-pipe replacement will take several years to be distributed to states as either grants or low-interest loans. It may take several years for lead pipes to be replaced, so it’s important people start filtering their water as soon as possible if they live in lead-impacted communities. Water filters certified to remove lead should be used before, during, and up to six months after pipes are replaced, since the replacement effort can displace additional lead in home water systems. Filters are the best solution for providing clean drinking water to homes. 

Filtered water provides a safe alternative that puts human health first, spreading access to clean water in lead-impacted communities, while also reducing plastic exposure in communities located near plastic production and disposal sites. We still have time to influence how the federal and local government use these funds to provide toxic-free drinking water during lead pipe replacement.

Take Action

Take action today to ensure lead pipes do not replace plastic pollution. Learn more about the Filtered Not Bottled campaign on our website.


Is your favorite TV show, movie, or other entertainment media doing the work to address the plastic pollution crisis? Most folks don’t tune in to count the number of single-use plastics they spot during their latest binge watch or movie night. That’s why Plastic Pollution Coalition has created a simple test to apply to film and television to help you easily tell if on-screen entertainment is taking steps to Flip the Script on Plastics. Introducing…

The Begley-Cohen Test

Inspired by and modeled after the Bechdel-Wallace Test, which is used to measure female representation in media, The Begley-Cohen Test is designed to help audiences quickly assess the representation and prevalence of single-use plastic within the content they consume.

A film or TV show passes The Begley-Cohen Test if…

(1) No single-use plastics appear on screen (i.e., the film/show is set in a time with no plastic, or plastics are replaced with refillable, reusable, or package-free options), or…

(2) If a single-use plastic item appears on screen, it is portrayed or discussed as problematic.

Why Begley-Cohen?

While there are many environmental heroes in the entertainment industry today, there is one name in Hollywood that is synonymous with environmental protection and that is Ed Begley Jr. 

From making iconic Simpsons jokes, to being recognized with a 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Environmental Media Awards, Ed Begley Jr. is a name that has been synonymous with environmentalism in Hollywood for decades. Ed has also been a champion of Plastic Pollution Coalition since its founding in 2009, acting as a Notable Founding Coalition Member. We are excited to honor Ed Begley Jr. and his environmental legacy with this important new test for the on-screen entertainment industry. 

“The Begley-Cohen Test is a simple way to gauge if our most loved shows are portraying the world we need to create. What we see is what we do, and the entertainment industry can help audiences shift away from our toxic throwaway culture. It is an honor to have my name attached to this important tool to help Flip the Script on Plastics in Hollywood.” – Ed Begley Jr. 

And, of course, we also wanted to honor Plastic Pollution Coalition’s co-founder and CEO, Dianna Cohen. Dianna is a visual artist whose work with plastic as a material helped start Plastic Pollution Coalition and sparked much of the awareness of the issue that exists and continues to evolve today.

Applying the Test to Popular Media

The Begley-Cohen Test is intended to help you simply and quickly identify if the movie, show, or other media you’re watching portrays the world free of plastic pollution that we are working to create.

Some movies and shows will pass the test by premise alone. Recent films like The Northman or Persuasion automatically pass simply because they are set in a time before plastic.

On the other end of the spectrum, some media fails the test as soon as you see their promotional material, such as NBC’s The Thing About Pam, a show who’s ads prominently featured star Renee Zellweger holding a polystyrene cup (aka “Styrofoam”) with a plastic straw.

Some films are more nuanced when it comes to this test, such as David Chronenberg’s new film Crimes of the Future, where the few pieces of single-use plastic on screen are not always discussed as problematic, until it is revealed that the overarching theme of the movie is, ‘We’re destroying the Earth with plastic, so what do we do with that?’ — Yahoo Entertainment

With some media, it may take until the last scene to spot a moment that fails the test, and if that is the case, that’s still pretty darn good. 

This is Just a Jumping-off Point

Much like the Bechdel-Wallace test, the Begley-Cohen test shouldn’t be seen as the ultimate be-all, end-all of plastic pollution representation in media, but merely as a baseline of the bare minimum that creators may use as their jumping-off point to removing plastics from both their storylines and their sets. 

So, next time you sit down to watch a TV show, movie, or other on-screen entertainment, ask yourself, am I seeing plastic in this storyline? And if so, are the characters treating it as a problem, or simply letting it become another piece of trash in the massive pile of worldwide plastic pollution? 

With The Begley-Cohen Test, we are providing a tool for audiences and content creators to recognize, imagine, create, and implement a world without plastic pollution. Together we are shifting popular culture to change the perception of toxic throwaway plastic as being normal—because it’s not.

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

Learn More and Get Involved

Learn more about the Flip the Script on Plastics here, and let us know what content you’re consuming that passes The Begley-Cohen Test by posting screenshots or just tell us what you’re seeing and tag it using #FlipTheScriptOnPlastics.


September 29, 2021 , 5:00 pm 6:00 pm Washington, DC

Over 99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels, and greenhouse gases are emitted at every stage of the plastics life cycle. Yet, even as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that “climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying,” big brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé (including BlueTriton, formerly Nestlé Waters North America) are increasing their production of single-use plastics and packaging—driving a petrochemical expansion that threatens the global climate as well as communities and ecosystems around the world.

This webinar will feature Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama, who will discuss the nexus between plastic production and climate change, including the immense environmental justice impacts, and Graham Forbes, Global Project Leader of the Plastic-Free Future campaign at Greenpeace, who will discuss how consumer goods companies’ reliance on single-use plastic packaging is providing a lifeline for Big Oil. This important conversation is especially relevant ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 in November, where world leaders are scheduled to gather in Glasgow, Scotland, with the goal to accelerate action on climate change.

DATE: Wed., September 29
TIME: 2-3 pm PT | 5-6 pm ET
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Judith Enck
Beyond Plastics

Judith founded Beyond Plastics in 2019 to end plastic pollution through education, advocacy, and institutional change. Passionate about protecting public health and the environment, she teaches classes on plastic pollution as a Senior Fellow and visiting faculty member at Bennington College, and was recently a Visiting Scholar at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

Judith has held top influential positions in state and federal government. Appointed by President Obama, she served as the Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, overseeing environmental protections in NY, NJ, eight Indian Nations, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands – in addition to managing a staff of 800 and a $700M budget.

Previously, Judith served as Deputy Secretary for the Environment in the New York Governor’s Office, and Policy Advisor to the New York State Attorney General. She was Senior Environmental Associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, served as Executive Director for Environmental Advocates of New York and the Non-Profit Resource Center, and is a past President of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Judith appears on a weekly public affairs radio show on a local NPR affiliate, the Roundtable on WAMC in Albany, NY. 

Judith lives in upstate New York with her husband, where they built their passive solar home with their own hands and with lots of support from friends and family. She designed her town’s rural recycling program. She is a proud parent and enjoys reading and following the news in her spare time.

Graham Forbes
Global Project Leader, Plastic-Free Future campaign
Greenpeace USA

Graham Forbes leads the Greenpeace global plastics campaign, which aims to stem the flow of plastic pollution into our oceans, waterways and communities by empowering people to hold corporations accountable. He has over 15 years of experience leading successful campaigns on environmental, human rights, labor and social justice issues. 

Beginning his career as a union organizer with UNITE HERE, Graham has focused his professional life on bringing the environmental and labor movements together to win political and corporate victories that protect natural places and secure rights for workers. Graham holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of California, San Diego and a master’s degree in political economy from San Diego State University. He has a lifelong passion for the ocean and spends as much time as he can in the Pacific.


September 29, 2021
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm PDTw
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Plastic Pollution Coalition
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August 25, 2021 , 5:00 pm 6:00 pm Washington, DC

How can we stop plastic from polluting our most beautiful natural places? From trails to beaches, parks to playgrounds, and even protected areas—plastic is impacting the world’s most revered landscapes.

Join the conversation to hear about efforts to truly honor nature by keeping plastic pollution out of it, including the campaign to urge U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Haaland to eliminate the sale and use of single-use plastics in U.S. national parks.

DATE: Wed., August 25
TIME: 2-3 pm PT | 5-6 pm ET
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August 25, 2021
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm PDTw
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Plastic Pollution Coalition
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GARDNER, MA (September 3, 2020)— Seaman Paper Company (Seaman Paper), a leading global manufacturer of environmentally sustainable specialty paper and packaging solutions, and Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC), an NGO and global alliance working toward a world free of plastic pollution, are pleased to announce a partnership focused on reducing the amount of single-use plastic used in packaging applications across retail, eCommerce, and other supply chains.

Seaman Paper is a dynamic leader not only in the paper industry but also in social, environmental, and economic responsibility. Through its Soft Steps Forward Initiative, the company remains steadfast in its commitment to manufacturing high-quality products while reducing negative environmental impact, continuously examining and enhancing procedures to improve sustainability performance. 

“As Seaman Paper pursues its own efforts to eliminate single-use plastics with our growing portfolio of paper-based alternatives, we are delighted to add our voice, expertise, and assistance to the important work Plastic Pollution Coalition is doing,” said Seaman Paper CEO Ken Winterhalter. “Together as collaborative thought leaders, we believe we will play a significant role in educating businesses and consumers about viable alternatives to harmful plastic packaging, and create positive change for people and the planet.” 

The PPC is a global alliance comprising more than 1,200 organizations, businesses, citizens, and policymakers from 75 countries. Its mission is to work toward a world free of the toxic impact plastic pollution has on humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and the environment. 

“Plastic Pollution Coalition welcomes Seaman Paper to our global Coalition,” said Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder, and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “An essential part of our mission is to connect businesses and organizations to companies that can help them reduce their reliance on plastic. The world is simply drowning in plastic, and we are committed to helping businesses and consumers realize that companies can be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.”

For more information about Seaman Paper, visit For more information about PPC, visit

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About Seaman Paper Company

Seaman Paper, headquartered in Gardner, Massachusetts, is a leading global manufacturer of lightweight specialty tissue papers. The family-owned company has been making paper in Massachusetts since 1946. Over the last decade, Seaman Paper has grown domestic and global manufacturing operations to meet their customers’ needs worldwide. The company’s paper-based, sustainable solutions help customers protect what is most important to them. To learn more about Seaman Paper, please visit

About Plastic Pollution Coalition

Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of more than 1,200 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 75 countries working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways, and the ocean and the environment.

As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to spread, we all are grappling with its impact on our local communities and the world, and we grieve with those who have lost loved ones.

Public health experts advise self-quarantine and, if necessary to go out, to keep six-feet of physical distance from others to help slow down the spread of this disease. This is in an effort to flatten the curve of infection and lessen the impact on our health care systems.

We have seen communities supporting each other in many new and old ways over the past few weeks. We have seen global carbon emissions fall and opportunities to advocate for new systems of care for the health of us all.

Plastic Pollution Coalition will continue advocating for a world free of plastic pollution for the health of animals, humans, waterways, oceans, and the environment. 

We remain unswerving in our work to reduce single-use plastics–specifically for non-medical use that may become a vehicle of virus transmission and cause worsening global plastic pollution.

It’s important to remember that using more single-use plastic disposables during this time increases your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals that are toxic to our own health and that of younger generations.

What can you do?

We are all in this together, and we will get through this with each other’s help and care.

Contact Us