In March of 2021, a new version of the 2020 Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act was reintroduced into Congress. The federal bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA) will be the most extensive set of policy solutions to the plastic pollution crisis ever introduced in Congress. In the rest of this article, I will explain: How we got to this point, what the BFFPPA hopes to achieve, how it will affect you, and how you can help get it passed.
Plastic and the overall pollution that comes with it is one of the largest existential crises we are facing today. Here are some quick facts about plastic and why it has become such a huge problem.
91% of plastic is never recycled – breakfreefromplastic.org
More than 350 million metric tons of plastic are produced each year – Nature.com
The United States generates more plastic waste than any other country in the world – Sciencemag.org
10 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually – plasticoceans.org
50% of all plastic produced (380 million tons per year) is for single use purposes only - plasticoceans.org
World plastic production has increased exponentially from 2.1 million tonnes in 1950 to 147 million in 1993 to 406 million by 2015 – National Geographic
There will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050 – The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Plastic is clearly a huge problem. It is in the air we breathe; it is in the oceans we swim in, and it is in the food we eat. Because plastic is such a huge problem, the BFFPPA was recently reintroduced. The BFFPPA hopes to combat the number of issues we face as a society due to the increasingly out of control production and consumption of plastics. There are a number of things the BFFPPA will accomplish once passed.
Shifting responsibility for waste management and recycling to manufacturers and producers,
Setting up a national beverage container refund program
Establishing minimum recycled content standards
Phasing out certain single-use plastic products that aren’t recyclable
Prohibit plastic waste from being exported to developing countries
Placing a moratorium on new and expanding plastic facilities until the Environmental Protection Agency updates and creates vital environmental and health regulations on those facilities.
Test reuse and refill programs
Incentivize good design
Reduce the amount of toxic materials used in the production process
You may be wondering how this will affect your life? There are already several changes being made locally and statewide before the BFFPPA has even been passed. You may have already noticed your normal neighborhood grocery store no longer gives out plastic bags to put your groceries in. Most stores now offer a discount if you bring your own reusable bag and may even charge you extra for using a plastic one. A lot of restaurants and bars are no longer using plastic straws and have made the switch to paper or metal ones.
While the BFFPPA hopes to drastically overhaul the amount of plastic we come into contact within our daily lives, these small changes being made at grocery stores and bars will help us a society get used to no longer relying on plastics for our everyday use products. After reading this and seeing the devastating facts about plastic you may be a little anxious and want to know what you can do to help win the war against plastics. That’s Great! There are a number of different things you can do to help. One of the quickest and easiest ways to help is to try and limit the amount of plastic you currently use in your daily life. You can start by switching to a reusable water bottle, bringing your own lunch to work in a reusable bag, asking for no straw when you order a drink, and bringing reusable bags when you go shopping. Those are just a few ways to help limit your daily plastic use, but if you want to help get the BFFPPA passed there are two very easy ways to help. First you can contact your member of congress using this Link. The second thing you can do is add your organization’s support to this letter that will be sent to the senate to urge them to pass the BFFPPA using this Link.
Lastly if you or your organization are not yet involved in the movement towards Plastic Free July, its not too late to learn more and join, visit https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ for more info.