Dear Senator Udall and Congressman Lowenthal:
It is my privilege to write on behalf of Ocean Conservancy to express our strong support for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, a bold proposal to address the growing threat of plastic pollution. We applaud your leadership and your willingness to tackle such a complex and pressing issue.
Plastic pollution is one of the most prolific and most visible threats facing the ocean today, with an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean each year. Plastics have been found everywhere from Arctic ice to the bottom of ocean trenches. They’re in our air, our drinking water, and even our table salt. Scientists are just beginning to understand the impacts of plastic on human life; but we know that in the ocean they entangle animals, disrupt food webs, and even transport disease, affecting at least 800 marine species.
A problem of this magnitude and complexity requires a comprehensive array of bold and diverse solutions. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act rises to that challenge. The bill includes a sweeping set of policy measures to aggressively reduce plastic waste and prevent it from entering the ocean from the start.
In October, Ocean Conservancy published the Plastics Policy Playbook: Strategies for a Plastic-Free Ocean, the culmination of a year of research in some of the countries most acutely impacted by the proliferation of plastic waste. The goal of that research was to identify potential solutions and assess the necessary elements for effective implementation.
Several of the hallmark provisions in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act align with the key solutions that our research has identified as the most effective means to reduce the amount of plastics entering the ocean. We were happy to see the inclusion of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) measures that require plastic makers and sellers of plastic products and packaging to share responsibility for the management and disposal of waste associated with products they make, distribute or sell. EPR is a key component that will assist in financing waste management infrastructure improvements, helping us move towards a more circular economy.
The bill would also establish minimum recycled content standards for plastic beverage containers. It is estimated that only 8-9% of plastics are recycled in the United States. Requiring minimum recycled content standards for plastic beverage containers will help provoke demand for post-consumer plastics and incentivize recycling.
The legislation would also reduce plastic waste by phasing out certain single-use plastic products that are known to be especially difficult to recycle or damaging to the environment. Many of the items that your legislation would ban – including plastic carryout bags, foam food containers and drinkware, and plastic utensils – are among the top items found during Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup. These types of products are the most likely to end up in the ocean and have an outsized negative impact when they do. The easiest way to reduce the flow of these types of low-value plastics is to stop producing them when there are viable alternatives readily available.
The threat facing our ocean from the proliferation of plastic waste is considerable. The United States’ contribution to the problem is likely much worse than is widely understood, and we need bold action. We believe the range of solutions and ambitious targets included in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act charts the right course. We applaud your leadership and look forward to working with you to build support for the bill and see it advanced through Congress.
Janis Searles Jones
Chief Executive Officer