Merkley, Graham, Mast, Bonamici Lead Introduction of Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Tackle Microplastic Pollution

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL-18) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1) today to announce the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would establish a research pilot program within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test the effectiveness of tools designed to address the growing microplastic pollution crisis.

The program—which would be overseen by the EPA, in consultation with the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee, stakeholders, and experts in the field of microplastics and marine pollution—would seek to identify the most effective technologies to remove and prevent the accumulation of microplastics in the environment.

“Single-use plastic waste is suffocating our oceans, rivers, streams, and communities, and creating alarming mountains of debris on our coastal shores,” said Merkley. “Plastic pollution poses a serious health threat, jeopardizes the survival of countless marine species, and weakens the vitality of our coastal economies. Our kids’ health and futures depend on America solving this problem, and I’m pleased to be leading this bipartisan effort to identify the most effective tools to help us achieve that goal.”

“I am pleased to work with a bipartisan group of colleagues to find innovative solutions that ensure all Americans have access to a safe and clean environment,” said Graham. “The pilot program within the EPA will allow experts and stakeholders to unleash American ingenuity and identify practical solutions that protect our nation’s oceans, rivers, and waterways.”

“It’s scary to think about how much plastic is polluting our environment. Ocean plastics are destroying ecosystems, killing marine life and littering our beaches,” said Rep. Mast. “It’s only going to get worse until we do something about it, so this legislation is about getting serious with innovative ways to remove these harmful plastics from our environment. The health of our waterways depends on it.”

“Microplastics are a pervasive threat to the environment, to marine life, and to safe drinking water,” said Rep. Bonamici. “We must do more to prevent microplastics from entering our ecosystems and help remove them from stormwater systems, wastewater treatment facilities, drinking water systems, ports, harbors, estuaries, and marine environments. The MICRO Plastics Act will help accelerate the deployment of tools, technologies, and techniques to clean up microplastics. I’m encouraged that this legislation has bipartisan support, and I’m grateful for the partnership of Senators Merkley and Graham and Congressman Mast.”

Plastic is everywhere and cannot biodegrade—instead, it breaks down into microplastics, which have been found in rainwater, on the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, in farmland soil that produces our food, and in our lakes, rivers, and seas. These microscopic plastic particles pose major threats to marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and also expose humans to dangerous chemicals. A recent report estimated that each person ingests a credit card’s worth of plastic every week.

The pilot program established by the Making Investments in Curbing the Ruinous Output of (MICRO) Plastics Act of 2020 would require the EPA to test green and natural infrastructure, as well as new and existing technologies at stormwater systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and drinking water system projects. In addition, the program could study techniques to help ports, harbors, inland waterways, estuaries, and marine environments remove and prevent microplastic accumulation.

Senators Merkley and Graham were joined by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK). The House bill is cosponsored by Representative Greg Steube (R-FL-17).

The full bill text of the MICRO Plastics Act of 2020 is available here.