Rep. Panetta co-sponsors bill to ban single-use plastics

February 13, 2020
In The News

MONTEREY – Requiring big corporations to take responsibility for their pollution, the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act was introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-California, this week with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, signed on as one of its co-sponsors.

“We have seen firsthand the harm that plastics can do to our oceans. What we also are experiencing is the damage that plastics can do to our food supply and its negative impact on the climate crisis. Local communities have taken the necessary steps to reduce unnecessary plastic products. But now it’s time for the federal government to demonstrate leadership and address this problem,” said Panetta. “The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act sets out a marker to show the need to rein in waste, improve recycling, decrease harmful emissions, and help stop plastics from ending up in our oceans. The goals of the legislation are bold, but I look forward to having serious discussions with all sides in order to fight for lasting solutions.”

The act would provide the necessary leadership to reduce the amount of wasteful plastic and reform the nation’s broken waste and recycling collection system, say its authors.

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act will:

• Require 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.

• 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 investment in United States domestic recycling and composting infrastructure, while pressing pause on new plastic facilities until critical environment and health protections are put in place.

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Census Bureau Trade Data and plastic industry recycling reports, the national recycling rate for plastic waste in the U.S. is projected to sink from 8.4% in 2017 to about 5% in 2019.

Before 2017, the U.S. was sending 4,000 shipping containers a day full of American waste to China every year. But China changed its import policies, severely restricting the amount of contaminated and poorly sorted plastics it would accept. Its policy shift means that fewer plastic products have a recycling market. Those materials are now being landfilled, burned or shipped to other countries that cannot manage the influx of this waste and most of it ends up burned or contaminating the ocean, according to the bill’s authors.

The growing climate crisis is fueled by plastic production expansion that the oil and gas industries are investing in. The plastic industry announced $164 billion in investments for 264 new plastic facilities or expansion projects in the U.S. alone, many relying on state and local tax incentives. These investments could result in growing global plastic production by a third in five years, increasing pollution risks to communities close to these facilities and in their supply chain. It would also undermine efforts by cities, countries and the world to combat the growing plastics crisis, and exacerbate the climate crisis further.

In 2019, the production and incineration of plastic added more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — equal to the pollution from 189 new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants.

Since plastic does not biodegrade, it is breaking down into microplastics that are contaminating our food, water and air. A growing body of research is finding plastic and associated toxins throughout the food web, including our blood, feces and tissues. Exposure to these toxins has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.

Countries are working together to reduce plastic production and handle waste efficiently. In the United States, state and local governments are implementing policies to reduce unnecessary plastic products and shift responsibility to producers for managing their waste.

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act would provide national leadership and a comprehensive strategy to steer the country in the right direction and meet the crisis head-on.