Washington — The plastics industry is strongly pushing back on a proposal in Congress for bans on some plastic products and a pause on new resin plant construction, arguing it would hurt manufacturing growth and lead to more environmental costs from replacement products.
A high-profile bill introduced Feb. 11 by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., may not have much chance of becoming law in the near term, but supporters are calling it the most comprehensive plan yet seen in D.C. to target plastic waste and boost troubled recycling programs.
The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 includes both plastics-specific measures — like bans for some single-use plastics — and provisions that apply to all packaging materials, like requirements for extended producer responsibility systems paid for by industry and a national bottle bill.
But it was the plastics-specific sections, including legislative language calling for a three-year pause on building new plastic resin plants while air and water emissions rules are strengthened, that drew some of the sharpest replies from the plastics industry.
"A moratorium on new plastics facilities would limit domestic manufacturing growth, jobs, tax revenues for local communities and other benefits," said Keith Christman, managing director of the plastics division at the American Chemistry Council.
Bans on single-use plastics would shift packaging choices toward alternatives that have total environmental costs up to four times higher, ACC said.
"The moratorium and bans on plastic products are likely to increase environmental impacts while limiting access to a material that enables society to do more with less," Christman said, noting industry commitments to reduce plastic pollution like the $1.5 billion Alliance to End Plastic Waste and an ACC target to have all plastic packaging be recovered, recycled or reused by 2040.
The Plastics Industry Association, like ACC, argued that other proposals in Congress deserve more support, including the Save Our Seas Act 2.0 and an industry-backed bill called the Recover Act, which would allocate $500 million over five years to fund recycling programs.
"Any effort to specifically target plastic materials — that, after life-cycle analysis, prove to be more environmentally desirable than other materials — would be misguided at best and harmful at worst," said Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of the Washington-based association.
"The title of this bill suggests it is more interested in garnering headlines than it is in finding solutions," Radoszewski said.