Recapping our United States Against Plastic rally

U.S. PIRG and Environment America went on a virtual road trip to discuss policies to combat the plastic pollution crisis

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Haley Clinton
Zero Waste Campaign, Associate

Author: Haley Clinton

Zero Waste Campaign, Associate

Started on staff: 2020
B.S., summa cum laude, Florida Atlantic University Honors College

Haley works on the Beyond Plastics campaign to end the use of single-use plastics at the state and federal levels. Haley lives in Maryland where she enjoys hiking and video games.

Plastic is everywhere. It’s in the air we breathe, food we eat and water we drink. It’s also found in some of the most remote places in the world. This deluge of plastics is not only threatening our environment and wildlife, but also our own health.

To combat the plastic pollution crisis, we all need to work together, starting with banning the most unnecessary single-use products in our communities and holding companies responsible for the waste their products create. While many of us are already using reusable grocery bags, water bottles and coffee cups, we need actual policies in place to make lasting change and ensure these products never have a chance to pollute the environment or our communities.

During a recent rally hosted by U.S. PIRG and Environment America, we heard from our own state directors and legislators about ongoing plastic policies at the state and national level, in the form of a virtual “tour” across the country:

In Massachusetts, state Rep. Marjorie Decker set the stage by reminding us how important reducing plastic waste is for the health of future generations. To help fight against the plastic pollution crisis, she is sponsoring bills to expand the state's bottle bill and ban polystyrene foam containers -- commonly known as “Styrofoam.” Massachusetts has also introduced a bill to ban single-use plastic bags.

Maryland followed, having passed the first statewide polystyrene foam ban two years ago. During the rally, Del. Sara Love discussed a new and growing problem of plastic waste being converted to fossil fuels, often referred to as “chemical recycling.” Though the false solution has been promoted by the plastic industry, Maryland is working to prevent the issue through a first-in-the-nation bill to ban the polluting practice. 

Next up in the road trip was Pennsylvania, where the state has preempted municipalities and local governments from instituting their own single-use plastic products bans. Rep. Dianne Herrin attended the rally and discussed legislation she introduced to end this preemption law because “we need to give local communities the authority they deserve and need to make their own decisions when it comes to protecting their constituents and communities from environmental harm.”

Across the country in California, State Sen. Ben Allen spoke to the importance of producer responsibility, to shift the burden of waste management from individuals and communities to manufacturers with the power and ability to redesign their products to be more reusable and recyclable. The Golden state has already passed a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags, has made plastic straws available upon request only and is now considering legislation requiring truthfully labeled packaging and promoting a reusable beer bottle system. 

To the North, Oregon, like California, has banned plastic bags and made plastic straws available by request only. During our rally, State Rep. Janeen Sollman stepped away from a House floor discussion to stress the importance of holding producers responsible for the plastic pollution their products create, stating: “We need to eliminate over-production and consumption of plastics.”

Washington, the final state on our tour, featured state Sen. Mona Das discussing a recently passed and comprehensive bill to target plastic pollution in her state. The bill phases out “Styrofoam” food containers, packing peanuts, and coolers, while also requiring most beverage containers to be made of at least 50 percent recycled material by 2031. The bill, having passed the state legislature, is now heading to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk where we expect it will be signed into law.

Throughout our rally, we witnessed a growing sense of comradery between like-minded legislators. As Rep. Decker pointed out, “no state is an island and we all need to work together.”  Over half the states in our nation have introduced hundreds of bills to combat various aspects of the issue, including single-use plastic product bans, bottle bills, recycled content requirements, producer responsibility programs and limits on chemical recycling.

Drawing from those examples, lawmakers have introduced a comprehensive bill at the federal level. United States Rep. Alan Lowenthal, alongside Sen. Jeff Merkley, recently introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. Speaking to members of U.S. PIRG and Environment America,  Rep. Lowenthal stressed that the Act “incorporates best practices and common sense policies and is a roadmap to meaningfully tackle the plastic waste crisis.” 

We need laws to make real, lasting change. Now is the time to show your support for plastic reduction policies by calling on your elected officials while legislatures are still in session. Together, we can protect our environment, communities, and families by moving beyond plastic.

Haley Clinton
Zero Waste Campaign, Associate

Author: Haley Clinton

Zero Waste Campaign, Associate

Started on staff: 2020
B.S., summa cum laude, Florida Atlantic University Honors College

Haley works on the Beyond Plastics campaign to end the use of single-use plastics at the state and federal levels. Haley lives in Maryland where she enjoys hiking and video games.