Congress Must Pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act! - Waterkeeper

Congress Must Pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act!

By: Thomas Hynes

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was introduced last year in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This bill represents the federal government’s most serious commitment to combating the plastic pollution crisis. 

However, despite having 128 co-sponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate, the legislation has stalled. With Congressional elections upcoming, the bill’s fate remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the plastic pollution crisis continues to escalate unabated.  

Congress must act immediately to stem the toxic tide of plastic waste before this alarming situation gets even worse. Join us in contacting your members of Congress below in support of this badly needed legislation.

Nearly 400 million tons of plastic are created every year and that number is poised to triple by 2050. However, less than 10% of all that plastic will end up getting recycled. It begins to explain why every year, nearly 8 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans, rivers, lakes, and bays.

Making matters worse, the facilities that convert petroleum and fracked gas into plastic compounds release a host of other toxic pollutants into waterways and fenceline communities, including benzene, a known human carcinogen, and dioxins, the most toxic class of chemicals known to exist. Other wastewater pollutants include phthalates, a known cause of developmental and reproductive toxicity in humans, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which cause cancer, damage organs, and suppress our immune systems.

Plastic production facilities also push massive quantities of plastic pellets and other plastic particles into waterways through mishandling and stormwater discharge, affecting not only the water quality, but also the recreational and cultural uses of our shorelines and waterways.

This crisis cannot continue. Join us in demanding Congress take action today.

If passed, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would set Clean Water Act standards to control the discharge of plastic production chemicals and plastic pellets, such as nurdles and other pre-plastic materials, from entering waterways. It would also compel EPA to conduct a full review of the toxic chemical and solid waste pollution potential for discharges to waterways from existing and expanded plastic production facilities, in order to better protect communities that currently bear the brunt of the toxic impacts and environmental injustice of plastic. EPA would be directed to revise effluent limitation guidelines and ensure that the best available technology applies to existing plastic production facilities.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would also:

  • create a moratorium on new or expanded permits for certain facilities that manufacture plastics until regulations are updated to address pollution from the facilities;
  • establish requirements and incentives to reduce the production of plastics;
  • increase efforts to collect, recycle, or compost products and materials;
  • make certain producers of products fiscally responsible for collecting, managing, and recycling or composting the products after consumer use;
  • phase out a variety of single-use products, such as plastic bags, foodware, and utensils; and
  • limit the export of plastic waste to other countries that are unprepared to ensure safe processing of our waste.

We must act today to confront the mounting plastic pollution crisis!

Your support can help turn this proposed legislation into a reality. Contact your Members of Congress today in support of this historic legislation.