Washington — Democrats in Washington are bringing back their most comprehensive plastics environmental legislation with what they say are stronger targets aimed at reducing single-use plastics, eliminating toxic substances in packaging and strengthening environmental justice provisions.
The new version of the sprawling Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which was introduced Oct. 25 by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., renews a call for national extended producer responsibility programs requiring companies to pay more to support recycling and it includes a 10-cent national bottle deposit.
Environmentalists praised the bill for putting more onus on companies for cleaning up plastic pollution, including an EPR similar to that passed in California and three other states.
Industry groups said the law is more extreme than earlier versions of Break Free and moves further away from what they consider workable.
Merkley and Huffman framed the bill as addressing public health and toxic emissions problems, in addition to recycling, and said it incorporates other Democratic legislation on Capitol Hill that would limit permits for new plastics factory construction and require EPA to crack down on pellet leakage from manufacturing plants.
"Plastic pollution is a public health crisis that can only be solved with bold actions," Merkley said. "Additionally, plastics produce greenhouse gas emissions and release toxins throughout their entire lifespan, and it is front-line communities who are disproportionately exposed to the dangers from plastic production."
In a statement, Huffman noted his opposition to chemical recycling. The bill would prevent labeling plastics from chemical recycling as post-consumer for purposes of meeting the bill's recycled-content requirements.
"Plastic pollution isn't just a problem for our oceans and climate. It's a massive environmental injustice. Communities are overburdened with plastics' toxic air and water emissions and the false promises of so-called chemical recycling," Huffman said.
The legislation would also require resin makers and importers to pay a fee on materials sold into beverage and covered packaging materials, to be used for environmental cleanup and to support infrastructure for reusable packaging. That echoes a tax on single-use resin proposed by others in the Senate.