Washington — The industry-backed plastic pollution bill Save Our Seas 2.0 is moving forward in Congress, but it also picked up opposition from a key lawmaker who said it won't do enough to help cities burdened with the costs of plastic waste.
The legislation was voted through the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Nov. 13, but not before Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he opposed it because it lacked specific measures like container deposits and other ways to help reduce plastic waste in the U.S.
SOS 2.0 author Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, however, said he "strongly disagreed" with Udall's comments questioning SOS, adding his bill has strong support.
"We're looking to try to bring this to the floor quickly for Senate approval," Sullivan said. "It does take a comprehensive approach and I think the broad bipartisan support in the Senate is a testament to that."
But as comments from Udall and earlier statements from the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Tom Carper, indicate, this year's SOS bill has more opposition than the first Save Our Seas law, which passed last year.
In this year's bill, for example, a chemical recycling provision supported by the plastics industry was removed during a vote by another Senate committee in September.
Udall used the Senate committee meeting to say he agreed with critiques from environmentalists about SOS 2.0 and pushed Congress to debate a national bottle bill to raise plastics recycling rates.
Udall said the U.S. plastics bottle recycling rate is less than 30 percent but noted that states with container deposits like California, Oregon and New York regularly exceed 70 percent container recycling rates. He said 47 percent of the containers recycled in the U.S. come from 10 states with bottle deposits.
A bottle bill is "good economics and taxpayer-friendly," Udall said. "The companies that sell and profit from these beverage containers should help local governments cover the cost of collecting and recycling them."
"The cold hard fact is that recycling is not working effectively in the United States today," Udall said.