Updated: Jun 26, 2021
Plastic is one of the biggest contributors to today’s climate change crisis. Over 99 percent of plastics are made of fossil fuels, and 91 percent of plastics are not recycled. Additionally, plastic production is anticipated to continue increasing over the coming decades.
Consumers have begun to realize that plastic consumption cannot continue at its current trajectory. Paper bags have taken the place of plastic at many grocery stores, with some cities implementing small fees when requesting a plastic bag. However, consumer awareness is not enough. There needs to be real, substantial policy change at federal level.
The bicameral Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, introduced by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and California Representative Alan Lowenthal, is the most comprehensive plan introduced to Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis.
The legislation would “reduce plastic production, increase recycling, and protect frontline and fenceline communities from the burden of toxic emissions from plastic waste by changing the incentives of the industry”, ultimately shifting the cleanup responsibility away from consumers and small businesses, and onto the large corporations that produced the plastics initially.
This is a big step for the plastic pollution crisis. If corporations are responsible for cleaning up the damage caused by plastics, they will be financially motivated to decrease the burning and dumping of waste, largely contributing to much of the pollution’s detrimental effects.
Unfortunately, plastic has become a commonplace part of the modern lifestyle: it is in our packaging and products, continually causing damage to the environment, surrounding wildlife, and our health.
The effects of plastic pollution are felt throughout different communities, disproportionately harming communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities. Plastic pollutes the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the soil that grows their food. This is due to plastic’s unique chemical composition, as it cannot biodegrade: plastic remnants remain in the environment, contaminating the water, food, and soil.
Additionally, plastic disposal by incineration or landfill harms the proximal communities, yet the United States continues to export 225 shipping containers of plastic waste per day to countries with minimal waste management.
Therefore, it is crucial that we act now. We need to make significant policy changes surrounding plastic pollution that extend beyond a ten cent charge at the grocery store.
The act is currently endorsed by over 500 groups and is supported by a large number of U.S. Senators. To help this bill get passed, we encourage you to reach out to your representatives via this template or spread the word via social media!