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Waste & Recycling April 23, 2024 02:03:34 AM

U.S. Representative and Senators Huffman, Booker, Merkley Introduce Legislation to Address Plastic Production Crisis

Waste Advantage
ScrapMonster Author
The lawmakers emphasized the imminent danger plastic poses to public health, national security, and the planet’s future throughout its life-cycle and advocated for a vigorous stance in the negotiations.

U.S. Representative and Senators Huffman, Booker, Merkley Introduce Legislation to Address Plastic Production Crisis

SEATTLE (Waste Advantage): U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) re-introduced the Protecting Communities from Plastics Act, legislation that addresses the plastic production crisis that is fueling climate change and worsening environmental injustice. The reintroduction came just before the 54th annual Earth Day, the official 2024 theme for which is “Planet vs. Plastics,” as well as the commencement next week of the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution in Ottawa. As leaders meet to address the plastic pollution crisis on an international scale, the U.S. must continue to push for stronger legislation at home.

“Plastic pollution has become so ubiquitous that it can be found in the deepest parts of our oceans, every corner of the earth, and even in our body tissue. We are at a crisis level, and the problem doesn’t start or end there. Frontline communities are facing the brunt of this massive environmental injustice through the entire plastics lifecycle, from being poisoned by pollution from petrochemical manufacturing process on the front end, to suffering the consequences of toxic waste on the back end,” said Rep. Huffman. “The only way to truly address this crisis is to tackle the problem at its source: reducing how much plastic is produced in the first place and moving our economy away from its overreliance on single-use plastic. The writing is on the wall for Big Oil’s waning dirty-energy dominance – and we won’t let them continue their planet-killing pollution with plastics as a safety net.”

“The plastic pollution crisis is an urgent threat to our public and environmental health. Communities living near plastics facilities often suffer from exposure to harmful pollutants and increased long-term health complications,” said Senator Booker. “As we continue to tackle climate change and transition to a clean energy economy, fossil-based plastic production undermines our efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and address environmental injustice. This legislation will create nationwide targets for single-use plastic source reduction and pause the permitting of new and expanded plastics facilities while the EPA makes much-needed regulatory updates.”

“When it comes to reducing waste, we are taught the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. However, the reality for plastics is really the three Bs: buried, burned, or borne out to sea—which means dangerous chemicals are seeping into our soil, air, and water. This is a public health emergency for Americans everywhere, and disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-wealth communities,” said Senator Merkley, who serves as the Chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee overseeing environmental justice and chemical safety. “With plastic particles ending up on the snowcaps of the Arctic and inside our own bloodstreams, it’s clear we need strong legislation like the Protecting Communities from Plastics Act to get the plastics crisis under control. I will continue to work alongside my colleagues to get these solutions signed into law.”

With plastic production and consumption on track to double in the next decade, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions threaten to put our climate goals further out of reach, while expanded plastic production will drive more pollution in environmental justice communities around the United States. Petrochemical, plastic production, and waste incineration facilities, which are disproportionately located in or near Black, Brown, and low-income communities, release harmful air and water pollution that cause increased incidences of asthma, cancers, endocrine disruption, development disorders, and heart disease. Transitioning off of fossil fuels only to replace that demand with more fossil-based plastic production is not a sustainable solution, and will continue to perpetuate existing climate and environmental justice impacts.

The Protecting Communities from Plastics Act would:

  1. Directly tackle the plastic pollution crisis by cracking down on the plastic production process, building on key provisions from the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to address the harmful environmental justice impacts of this growing sector, and moving our economy away from an overreliance on single-use plastic.
  2. Establish stricter rules for petrochemical plants to safeguard the health of American communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions fueling the climate crisis.
  3. Begin to shift the U.S. economy away from its dependence on certain single-use plastics, creating new nationwide targets for plastic source reduction and reuse in the packaging and food service sectors. These targets are paired with federal incentives to spur expansion of reusable and refillable systems, with an emphasis on ensuring benefits are realized in environmental justice communities.

Rep. Huffman is a leader in Congress on combatting plastic pollution. This March, Huffman and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to encourage U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push for decisive measures in addressing plastic production at the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC)’s current session. The lawmakers emphasized the imminent danger plastic poses to public health, national security, and the planet’s future throughout its life-cycle and advocated for a vigorous stance in the negotiations.

Ahead of next week’s INC4 conference, Huffman joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Member of the European Parliament Mohammed Chahim to U.S. President Joe Biden and United Nations officials to ramp up scrutiny of the petrochemical industry’s lobbying at global environmental conferences.

Rep. Huffman has repeatedly led letters to the Biden administration to urge greater protections and rules to hold polluting industries accountable, including a letter with both former Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Sen. Cory Booker to the EPA calling on the agency to fully consider climate and environmental justice impacts of chemical recycling, or “advanced recycling” technologies in their rulemaking on those processes. Huffman, along with Merkley, leads the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, the most comprehensive plan ever introduced in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis that is poisoning our air, water, and land, and disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income Americans.

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Peter Welch (D-VT) and U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (MN-04).

 Courtesy: www.wasteadvantage.com

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