Merkley, Whitehouse, Welch, Gillibrand, Huffman Call for Ambitious International Plastics Agreement Ahead of INC-4

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-02) today called for development of an ambitious international treaty to clean up plastic pollution ahead of the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4).  Government leaders and international stakeholders will convene at INC-4 in Ottawa, Canada next week.

“Heading into Ottawa, we are championing an internationally binding commitment to reduce the harmful plastic pollution filling up the oceans and working its way into our food chain.  Negotiators should focus on achieving the strongest agreement possible – one that includes binding obligations that can be ratcheted up and transparent metrics to gauge environmental progress.  A small number of committed, high-ambition countries can create change and smooth the way for Congress to pass bold legislation cracking down on plastic pollution,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement.

The members are traveling to Ottawa this weekend as part of a congressional delegation to INC-4.

About 450,000,000 tons of plastic are produced every year, a number that is projected to triple by 2050.  In the United States, less than three percent of plastic waste is recycled into a similar quality product.  Research shows humans swallow the amount of plastic in the typical credit card every week.

In his role as the Chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee overseeing environmental justice and chemical safety, Merkley has held a first-of-its-kind series of hearings investigating plastic production and pollution. Merkley’s hearings have examined: environmental and climate damage from plasticsimpacts of plastics on environmental justice communitiesreuse and refill systemsbeverage container waste, and consumer challenges to recycling.  Merkley, along with Representative Huffman, leads the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, the most comprehensive plan ever introduced in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis that is poisoning our air, water, and land, and disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income Americans.

As a co-founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus, Whitehouse has played a key role in crafting bipartisan policies to confront the challenges of ocean plastic pollution.  Whitehouse and Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) wrote the bipartisan Save Our Seas and Save Our Seas 2.0 Acts, the most comprehensive marine debris measures ever passed into law.