Federal proposal to "tackle plastic waste pollution crisis"

In a July 2019 press release, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) announced that they plan to introduce comprehensive legislation this fall to tackle the plastic waste crisis. The lawmakers are seeking input from stakeholders by August 21, but "comments submitted after the deadline will continue to be considered as the legislation is refined."

Proposed components of the legislation include extended producer responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging and products, nationwide container deposit requirements (also known as deposit return systems or bottle bills), carryout bag fee, plastic product bans, labelling requirements, awareness-raising measures, and more.

The National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), which represents about 70% of the private sector waste and recycling market, released a statement (PDF) strongly opposing this federal proposal:

"There are better ways to address the issue of reducing plastic waste pollution than by product stewardship (PS) or extended producer responsibility (EPR) financing schemes. PS/EPR only serves to insert the government further economically between citizens, local governments, consumer products manufacturers and packaging companies, and our recycling industry."
The NWRA "believes that we can achieve the same end of reducing plastic waste pollution by encouraging more recycled content in the manufacturing of plastic products, improving products through better consumer product and product packaging designs, and by providing tax and other incentives to promote the development of new domestic markets and increased domestic recycling capacity... Increased public education on what localities’ recycling programs will accept, not a one-size fits all prescription, is the solution."

Meanwhile, Canada announced in June its intention to:

  • ban single-use plastics by 2021 and
  • develop consistent EPR programs across the country and
  • set targets for plastics collection, recycling, and recycled content requirements.

Recycling Today reported that the Canadian plastics industry "welcome[s] the plans for producer-led extended producer responsibility (EPR) initiatives which will lead to more harmonized collection and help build markets for recycled plastics."