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Democrats Propose Legislation To Phase Out Single-Use Plastic Products
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 11, 2020, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and U.S. Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced a bill that would phase out unnecessary single-use plastic products: Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. The legislation would also hold corporations accountable for wasteful products, reform the broken waste and recycling collection system, and reduce wasteful packaging. According to Udall, 92 percent of plastic waste in the United States is never recycled. Focused on waste reduction and waste management policies that can reverse this trend in the country, the implementation of this act would shift the responsibility for recycling and cleanup to the companies that produce wasteful products. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by five other Democratic Senators and 28 Democratic House Representatives. The bill would:

  • Spur innovation through incentives for big corporations to make reusable products and items that can actually be recycled;
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products, while standardizing recycling and composting labeling;
  • Reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable;
  • Require big corporations to take responsibility for their pollution, requiring producers of plastic products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs;
  • Spur massive investments in the U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure, while pressing pause on new plastic facilities until critical environmental and health protections are put in place;
  • Create a nationwide beverage container refund program, which is successful at the state level;
  • Encourage the design of less wasteful products by ensuring that producers are responsible for cleanup costs and recycling infrastructure; and
  • End the hazardous practice of exporting plastic waste overseas to developing countries that do not have the infrastructure in place to manage that waste.

The full bill text can be accessed here, and a summary is available here.