The plastics industry has been a target of an increasing number of government actions in the U.S., laws that go beyond banning bags or straws.
Two states on opposite sides of the country — Maine and Oregon — are moving forward with bills to add extended producer responsibility fees to companies in the packaging sector. And now the U.S. House of Representatives has added language into a massive bill that would take aim at plastic pellets that escape from plants or shipping operations.
In each case, industry groups maintain that the industry should have more input into regulations and note that Operation Clean Sweep has been working for 30 years to eliminate pellet pollution.
But here's the thing: Voluntary measures haven't worked. The amount of plastic pollution has only increased. Blaming it on the public — saying that people fail to dispose of packaging properly — doesn't actually move the needle forward in terms of sustainability, especially when industry leaders note a lack of infrstructure for recycling. Citing increased costs to manufacturers for work to mitigate the potential for pellet spills fails to recognize the costs involved in cleaning up waterways and beaches.
Obviously, these proposed laws can and should receive industry input to create a viable improvement that both companies and the public at large can actually live with. But the industry has had decades, literally, to show it can improve things on its own. Don't be surprised that local, state and federal governments are stepping forward with their own ideas now.