Congressman Lowenthal, Senator Udall Circulate Blueprints for Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to State Legislators

August 12, 2020
Press Release
In memo to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, Udall and Lowenthal encourage state lawmakers to push for plastic pollution laws in states across the country

U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) are calling on state and local legislators to introduce and enact legislation to tackle America’s growing plastic pollution and packaging waste crisis at the state level. In a memo to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) for its 2020 National Forum, Lowenthal and Udall encourage the lawmakers to draw from their Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA) for state bills to reduce the production of wasteful plastic and work together to tackle a mounting crisis in plastic pollution and packaging waste.  Drafted for the NCEL 2020 National Forum, Udall and Lowenthal intend the memo to be used broadly by other state and local lawmakers at all levels of government at the same time Congress debates meaningful action to solve this crisis.

The memo includes guidance for local legislators in drafting bills that suit the needs of their community to effectively reduce plastic pollution and packaging waste that causing rising state and local financial burdens and offers a portfolio of policy options that can be utilized based on the specific needs of local communities.

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA) goes beyond plastic to tackle all manner of products and packaging that are impacting our environment, straining our budgets, and threatening our health. This memo is broken into components of the [the Act].  We encourage you to use the attached blueprints along with the bill text and our supplemental materials to craft robust legislation for your state.  Whatever you decide, we encourage you to build on the great action that has already taken place across the country and to further push for change that will have a lasting impact,” the lawmakers write in the memo.

In February, Udall and Lowenthal introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA) after a year’s long effort that included soliciting input from over 200 individuals, organizations, and state and local lawmakers. The BFFPPA is based on proposed legislation and existing statutes from various states combined for the first time to create a comprehensive bill to address plastic pollution and packaging waste in the United States.  The bill phases out unnecessary single-use plastic products, makes polluting companies pay to clean up their plastic pollution and packaging waste, sets up a nationwide beverage container refund program, requires post-consumer recycled content in new products, requires accurate labels for recycling and composting, prohibits the export of plastic waste to developing countries, and pauses the build-out of new plastic producing facilities until regulations are updated.

"State and Federal leaders should all know about the damage caused to communities and the environment by the enormous amount of production, dumping, and burning of single-use plastic. This catastrophe requires action at every level of government, and state legislators are excited to see the many ways their leadership has informed policy work in Washington, D.C., and vice versa," said Jeff Mauk, NCEL Executive Director.

"The Surfrider Foundation recognizes that many state and local legislators would like to introduce bills similar to policies outlined in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act," said Jennie Romer, Legal Associate at the Surfrider Foundation's Plastic Pollution Initiative. "Such bills would reduce plastic pollution and shift the costs of collection, recycling, disposal, and cleanup of packaging away from the municipality, holding the producers of packaging responsible. This memo provides valuable insights on how to structure such bills, including background on why certain clauses were chosen and which states' laws inspired certain clauses of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act."

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act includes the same extended producer responsibility (EPR) elements contained in packaging EPR bills already introduced in numerous state legislatures," said Scott Cassel, CEO and Founder of the Product Stewardship Institute. “With EPR at its core, the BFFPPA shifts the responsibility to finance and manage packaging from local governments to producers. It represents legislative best practices to reduce waste and recycle all material types back into the circular economy, with a particular focus on eliminating unnecessary plastics that create significant pollution.” 

“Deposit systems represent the most effective beverage container recycling programs available, and the BFFPPA provides a valuable framework for modernizing them in the 10 state with these laws and in developing them in the 40 without,” said Susan Collins, President of the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit recycling industry authority. “With the use of consumer-focused technologies, coverage of all relevant beverage types, an increase in deposit amounts and adequate handling and processing fees for redemption centers, we can achieve beverage container recycling rates of more than 80 percent, compared to the current 23 percent in non-deposit states. This would mean dramatically less litter and harmful marine debris, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and deposit money back in consumers’ pockets.”

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act should serve as a model for legislators across the country on how to comprehensively tackle the plastic pollution crisis. For too long, corporations have diverted blame for the plastic pollution crisis they have created. They have told us that if we just recycle more or participate in beach cleanups that we can turn this around. That has not worked. It is time to end our reliance on single-use plastics and prevent petrochemical companies from locking us into decades of additional plastic production," said Kate Melges, Greenpeace USA Senior Plastics Campaigner.

"Latinx communities stand up for solutions that will protect our pristine ocean and waterways, but also protect our communities from harmful toxins in our water and air. We need to come up with practices that greatly reduce single-use plastics and packaging through reduction, sustainable alternatives and holding producers accountable. We believe the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act can greatly reduce the amount of plastic pollution currently being produced and processed in our communities. By investing in concrete steps to reduce our waste, we are investing in the health of our environment and communities of color” said Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes, Clean and Healthy Waters Consultant for GreenLatinos.

"The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act assembled our best policies to reduce plastic pollution at the source. Now, the full blueprint is available to state and local leaders, many of whom contributed to the process. With this comprehensive model, we can effectively reduce the amount of disposable plastic in our lives and hold producers responsible for the problematic waste they create" said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste Director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

“States and cities have the power to propel the nation forward in the fight against plastic pollution, and the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act has provided a blueprint for meaningful change. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean every year — roughly the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the sea every minute. To reverse this crisis, we need robust, comprehensive policies, like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, that stop plastic pollution at its source and promote a shift to reusables and refillables. Plastic production’s current trajectory paints a grim picture for our blue planet's future, but policy-makers have the power to change course before it's too late,” said Christy Leavitt, Oceana plastics campaign director.

“Plastic pollutes not only our waterways and oceans, but from source and production, it negatively impacts the health of communities nearby. Latinxs have a long track record of common sense approaches to conservation, and support long term solutions that protect both people and nature” said Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Founder and Executive Director for Azul.

“We simply can’t make so much plastic without trashing our oceans, climate and the life they support. The Break Free From Plastic Act works to address the crisis by reducing plastic packaging and putting the brakes on increased plastic production. The Act also sets the goal posts for state and local governments to hold the plastic industry accountable for the pollution it creates. We need strong actions at every level of government to stop the conversion of fracked gas into mountains of throwaway plastic,” said Delia Ridge Creamer, Oceans Campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity.

The full memo to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators can be found HERE.

The full text of the BFFPPA can be found HERE. A summary and extensive background materials can be found HERE.