February 11, 2020

Harris, Feinstein, Lawmakers Unveil Landmark Legislation to Break Free From Plastic Pollution

Bill tackles the most common forms of plastic pollution, saves taxpayers billions and holds large corporations accountable for waste

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in unveiling the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, legislation that would phase out unnecessary single-use plastic products, hold corporations accountable for wasteful products, reduce wasteful packaging, and reform our broken waste and recycling collection system.

Recent reports estimate that each person consumes a credit card’s worth of plastic per week. That's because plastic is everywhere and it doesn’t biodegrade. Plastic breaks down into micro-plastics that are found in rainwater on the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, in farmland soil that produces our food, and in our lakes, rivers, and seas. Plastic production is also a major contributor to climate change, with its production expected to account for 20 percent of global oil consumption by 2050. Meanwhile, 92 percent of U.S. plastic waste is never recycled.  By shifting the responsibility for recycling and cleanup to the companies that produce wasteful products, practical waste reduction and waste management policies can reverse this trend and put the United States on a path to break free from plastic pollution.   

“There is simply no question we are facing a global environmental crisis from plastic pollution,” said Senator Harris. “The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act offers comprehensive action to reduce plastic waste and production, one of the major contributors to climate change and the poisoning of our oceans and waterways. California has been a leader on this issue and it is vital that we implement long lasting solutions at the federal level and hold corporations accountable for the plastic waste and pollution that poison our families and environment.”

Along with Harris, Feinstein, Udall and Merkely the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

The legislation joins initiatives from a number of countries around the world to reduce plastic pollution, such as policies from the 28 member countries of the European Union, Canada, India and China.

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act will provide badly-needed national leadership – reducing the amount of wasteful plastic and reforming our broken waste and recycling collection system. It will shift the burden of cleanup to where it belongs – to the corporations that produce this waste:

  • Require big corporations take responsibility for their pollution, requiring producers of plastic products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs.
  • Spur innovation, incentivizing big corporations to make reusable products and items that can actually be recycled.
  • Create a nationwide beverage container refund program, which is successful at the state level.
  • Reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable.
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products, while standardizing recycling and composting labeling.
  • Spur massive investments in U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure, while pressing pause on new plastic facilities until critical environment and health protections are put in place. 

The full text of the bill can be found HERE.

A summary and extensive background materials can be found HERE.

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