Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and 64 Members urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan to do more to reduce plastic waste and pollution and prevent microplastics from entering our waterways.

“As our waterways overflow with plastics and our bodies are invaded by microplastics, now is the time for urgent, meaningful action, not timidity,” said Rep. Doggett. “To respond to the growing harm and a massive, misleading plastic industry marketing blitz, EPA should be doing much more and doing it sooner. If we continue to kick the plastic bottle down the line, this type of pollution will continue to wreak havoc on our communities.”

“When it comes to reducing waste, we were taught the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle; however, the reality for plastics is the three Bs: buried, burned, or borne out to sea,” said Sen. Merkley. “The EPA must take action to reduce plastic production and pollution in order to protect our public health, waterways, and animals. It’s not just enough for us to curb our own individual plastic use—America must take action at the federal and international level to solve this crisis.”

On April 21, the EPA released a Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution, which is part of the EPA’s series of initiatives to eliminate plastic waste from land-based sources by 2040.

“Although this Draft makes progress in our federal government’s approach to plastic pollution, we feel the strategy needs actionable plans and requirements. The entire life-cycle of plastics, from production to disposal, pose serious threats to the health of the planet and all of us who call it home. While the Draft National Strategy acknowledges the dangers of plastic pollution—including health concerns of endocrine-disrupting effects from exposure to plastics leaching chemicals—an urgent commitment to necessary actions is required to curb such threats to public health,” wrote the lawmakers.

In the letter, the lawmakers note the EPA should develop a plan to phase out single-use products across the federal government, which would help lead the charge in both public and private sectors. Other federal agencies have begun internal plans and processes to phase out single-use plastics, yet EPA’s leadership lags behind, given their continued use of single-use plastics.

“EPA should be a leader by establishing an urgent timeline for its own procurement and encouraging a government-wide effort to phase out single-use plastics as part of its National Strategy to Reduce Plastic Pollution,” wrote the lawmakers.

The lawmakers are asking EPA to include actions such as eliminating the EPA’s procurement of single-use plastics, reducing the EPA’s procurement of polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene—two of the most toxic plastics, establishing a community right-to-know for the production of new chemicals for plastic, initiating authority under the Clean Water Act to minimize microplastics and microfibers in waterways, and recommending opportunities for rulemaking to limit microplastics.

“The Draft has demonstrated the many dangers of plastic to human and environmental health and some of the ways to mitigate this harm. To meaningfully protect communities across America, now EPA must include more actionable measures to actually reduce plastic waste and pollution,” the lawmakers concluded.

EPA is currently accepting feedback on the Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution, and the deadline to submit a public comment is July 31, 2023.

Read the full text of the letter, with all signatories, here.