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Last week, federal legislators reintroduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, which would pass sweeping recycling and single-use plastic regulations. The bill, which was originally introduced last year, would implement a nationwide extended producer responsibility (EPR) program, minimum recycled content mandates, a national container deposit system, and single-use plastic bags. It would also implement a three-year pause on issuing permits for new plastic production facilities. Experts from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) say that this bill has come at the right time, publishing a national poll that found 86% of Americans believe the U.S. must transition from a throw-away economy to one that emphasizes reuse and recycling.
Why This Matters: The U.S. is the largest plastic polluter in the world but only recycles 8.7% of its plastics. Much of that plastic takes the form of consumer packaging like plastic bags, wrappers, straws, and more. Global plastic waste makes its way into our ecosystems, where it kills an estimated 100,000 marine animals and one million seabirds each year, before breaking down into harmful microplastics that contaminate fish and seafood that humans rely on. Plastic doesn’t just harm the land and sea, it also contributes to atmosphere-warming greenhouse gasses at every point in its lifecycle. These consequences harm vulnerable communities the most. According to WWF’s latest poll, consumers are ready to make a change. Unfortunately, plastics companies aren’t.
The Break Free Acthas been criticized primarily due to its strengthened EPR policy that would hold plastic producing companies accountable for their waste beyond the point of sale. But it’s not the only bill in Congress with EPR policy. The CLEAN Future Act focuses on energy, economic, infrastructure, and job-related strategies to reduce plastic pollution and meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. But groups like the American Chemistry Council (ACC) which represents plastics producers, call the Break Free Act a “misguided and harmful piece of legislation” that would limit jobs and innovation. Instead, the ACC supports a “shared-responsibility model” that would put the onus on consumers to pay taxes on plastic to pay for recycling programs and public service campaigns. But legislators and advocates alike say the legislation could revolutionize the recycling and plastics industry. “This legislation will bring our packaging and recycling systems into the future,” said Roberta Elias, director, policy and government affairs for WWF.
The Court of Public Opinion
Unfortunately for the ACC, 68% of Americans believe that plastic producers need to step up to the plate and be responsible for improving the national recycling infrastructure. Elias said that consumers are the ones driving this movement and that if companies are smart, they’ll listen. “We live in a world where plastic waste is everywhere. It’s in our neighborhoods, in our oceans and forests, and leaking into nature,” she said. “That’s the bad news. But the good news is that when it comes to tackling this issue, we are seeing that public demands are clear, and they want plastic waste to be addressed.”
The Biden administration released its “skinny” post-election year budget plan for government spending next year and it included large increases for battling climate change and reversing environmental injustice, particularly as compared to the Trump administration’s drastic proposed cuts in these areas.
Why This Matters: These are big increases over the Trump administration’s proposals — for NOAA it would mean 50% more. But Congress never enacted those truly skinny budgets — they actually modestly increased or held most environmental spending steady.
As the Biden administration readies to enact an infrastructure plan, Congressional Republicans continue to lament that water pipes, EV chargers, and expanded railways “don’t count” as infrastructure. Yet, as Biden cabinet members have been saying: we need to expand our definition of infrastructure beyond roads and bridges to prepare our country for the future. As […]
Leading up to Earth Day and President Biden’s first Climate Summit on April 22, Gallup is releasing a series of environmental polls, and the latest has found that the opinion gap on climate change between Democrats and Republicans is only growing wider.
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