Three members of Congress are asking President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize plastics environmental concerns in his administration, linking it to climate change and environmental justice.
The lawmakers, including a House member who was elected to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership circle in November, released a letter to Biden on Dec. 9 asking him to take executive actions on plastics issues similar to a plan outlined recently by a coalition of environmental groups.
The letter was sent by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., who was elected as assistant speaker by the House Democratic caucus Nov. 18, along with Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
"We urge you and your administration to tackle this issue comprehensively with significant measures that can be taken independently from Congressional action," they wrote. "The rampant production of unnecessary single-use plastic products is driving climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions that harm local environmental justice communities, both where plastic is made and where plastic is often discarded."
Merkley spoke at a Dec. 8 news conference where the environmental coalition unveiled an eight-part plan they said a Biden administration could do on its own.
The lawmakers said in their Dec. 8 letter that they plan to introduce the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act again in the new Congress in 2021, but also urged administrative action.
They said the United States has 4 percent of the world's population but quoted a study that said the U.S. generates 17 percent of the world's plastic waste. As well, they noted financial problems that local governments have funding recycling and said those governments are in an economic crisis.
They said a Biden administration should put more emphasis on communities living near plastics production plants.
"Plastic production and processing facilities, much like landfills, oil refineries, and other sources of industrial pollution, are overwhelmingly constructed in low-income communities of color that already bear the brunt of environmental and economic burdens," they wrote.
The lawmakers urged the Biden administration to look beyond end-of-life solutions like recycling, and said greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production will reach an estimated 1.3 billion tons by 2030, the equivalent of 300 coal-fired power plants.
"A multipronged approach that focuses on limiting plastic and packaging production and a transition to a truly circular economy is the only solution," they said. "For years, industry advocates and producers have focused exclusively on downstream solutions, like recycling."
In their letter, the lawmakers noted the points in the NGO plan, including having "corporate polluters pay," updating pollution regulations for plastics facilities, suspending permits for new plastic plant construction and joining international treaties "to establish binding commitments to reduce plastic use."