A bill in Congress aims to reduce microplastics in the ocean by incentivizing companies to produce more sustainable products and packaging. (Ignacio/Adobe stock)

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 By Suzanne Potter

May 20, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Conservation groups are calling for passage of a bill to phase out single-use plastics.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would hold companies accountable for the full life cycle of their products and packaging and expand reuse and refill programs.

Heidi Harmon, mayor of San Luis Obispo and co-chair of the California chapter of Elected Officials to Protect America, said less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled. Most of it goes from our recycling bins to the incinerator, the landfill and ultimately the oceans.

“The industry conned us into believing that plastics were being recycled,” Harmon asserted. “And as a result, since 2005 our plastic waste has doubled. At this rate, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight, by 2050, which is crazy.”

Opponents of the bill argued it puts too big a burden on industry and could cause prices to rise. According to the 5 Gyres Institute, nearly two-thirds of plastic becomes waste and by 2050 global production is projected to triple, accounting for 20% of oil consumption. American companies ExxonMobil and Dow are the two largest plastic producers in the world.

David Levine, president of the American Sustainable Business Council, said federal legislation is needed to spur companies to create truly recyclable products and packaging.

“We can overhaul how we design, manufacture, distribute our products, transitioning from single-use and toxic chemicals to a circular economy, a sustainable economy that creates new business opportunities and more jobs,” Levine contended.

There are health implications as well. Last year, for the first time, researchers in Italy found microplastics in the placentas of unborn babies. Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate but have yet to receive a hearing or a vote.

References:  Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act
Elected Officials to Protect America
Plastic data U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 01/05/2021
Legisation news release 5 Gyres Institute 02/11/2021
Plastic makers waste index Minderoo Foundation May 2021
Microplastics in humans study San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli Hospital 12/02/2021