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STATEMENTS: Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act a Bold, Necessary Path Forward to Tackle Plastic Pollution

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Today, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) reintroduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in Congress. Ocean Conservancy endorsed the legislation when it was first introduced in February 2020 and has since worked with members of Congress to help refine the scope and language of the bill.

Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, issued the following statement:

“Plastic pollution is one of the most visible and most prolific threats facing our ocean today, and requires truly bold and ambitious action. Ocean Conservancy is thrilled to see Senator Merkley and Representative Lowenthal reintroduce an even stronger Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in the 117th Congress. The bill hits all the most important policy levers available to tackle the ocean plastics crisis – from reducing our reliance on single-use plastics to mandating recycled content minimums to holding producers accountable for the waste their products generate – and we look forward to working with the bill sponsors, members of Congress and the Biden Administration to implement them for a healthy ocean free of plastics.”

Nicholas Mallos, senior director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® program, issued the following statement:

“Even under current commitments, a cargo ship’s worth of plastics by weight will enter aquatic ecosystems every day by 2030, and we know that the United States plays an outsized role in this problem. Recent research co-authored by Ocean Conservancy and colleagues showed that the U.S. is among the top contributors globally to the ocean plastics crisis, due in large part to decades of exporting our plastic waste abroad.

“From banning unnecessary single-use plastic items like straws and utensils that so often plague our beaches and waterways to implementing extended producer responsibility measures that hold plastics producers accountable for managing waste from their products, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will help turn the tide on plastic pollution. We’re excited to see this legislation go even further than its first iteration by strengthening provisions to ban U.S. exports of scrap plastics to countries without the infrastructure to handle them, increasing recyclability standards on a more aggressive timeline, and taking specific aim at microplastics and microfibers – aspects of the plastics crisis that have long raised concerns for scientists but that have had limited traction in policy circles until now.

“Our ocean must be a priority for the Biden Administration and 117th Congress, and we look forward to working with them to make this bill a reality.”

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NOTE TO EDITORS: Ocean Conservancy experts are available for interviews and further comment. Photos of plastic pollution are available here.

This legislation targets some of the most frequently collected single-use plastic items at Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. In 2019, volunteers across the U.S. collected:

  • 182,481 plastic straws
  • 103,710 plastic grocery bags
  • 74,162 other plastic bags
  • 54,165 plastic utensils
  • 47,609 foam take out containers

The full 2020 ICC report can be found here.

About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

About Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program

Ocean Conservancy has led the fight for a clean, healthy ocean free of trash since 1986, when the U.S.-based nonprofit launched its annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Since then, Ocean Conservancy has mobilized millions of ICC volunteers to remove trash from beaches and waterways around the world while pioneering upstream solutions to the growing ocean plastics crisis. Ocean Conservancy invests in cutting-edge scientific research, implements on-the-ground projects, and works with conservationists, scientists, governments, the private sector and members of the public to change the plastics paradigm. To learn more about our Trash Free Seas® program visit oceanconservancy.org/trashfreeseas.

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