Welch, Merkley Introduce Bill to Ban Toxic Substances in Plastic Bottles, Address Plastic Pollution in our Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) led Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in introducing the Banning Toxics in Plastic Bottles Act, legislation to prohibit the sale of plastic beverage containers that contain toxic substances and dyes linked to adverse health and environmental impacts, including Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS). The bill also creates a grant fund through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would provide local waste management and water infrastructure facilities with resources to address plastic pollution. The bill requires the EPA to prioritize rural and historically underserved communities when issuing the grants. 

“Big companies are producing more and more toxic chemicals, dyes, and non-recycled plastic—prioritizing profits over our health and welfare. The increased production of these toxins leaves our communities to clean up the mess, an especially heavy burden for rural and low-income communities already overburdened by pollution,” said Senator Welch. “In Vermont, we’ve taken strong action to restrict the sale of products containing PFAS and harmful chemicals, because Vermonters shouldn’t have to shoulder companies’ environmental burdens. The Banning Toxics in Plastic Bottles Act follows Vermont’s lead and takes a major step forward to protect public health and the environment by prohibiting the sale of plastic bottles made with toxic chemicals and dyes.” 

“The plastics crisis is not only an environmental disaster but also a public health emergency that demands urgent action,” said Senator Merkley, who serves as the Chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee overseeing environmental justice and chemical safety. “Research continues to show us how the chemicals used in plastics are linked to negative health outcomes, including cancer. Transitioning away from toxic, single-use plastics with the Banning Toxics from Plastic Bottles Act is the bold action America needs to protect the health of current and future generations.”  

“The plastic pollution crisis is harming our health and the environment in so many ways. From plastic products ending up in our waterways and oceans to toxic chemicals in many plastic containers leaching into our bodies and the environment, we must combat this multi-pronged issue,” said Senator Booker. “I am proud to support this legislation to eliminate harmful chemicals from plastic beverage containers and provide resources to our underserved communities to address plastic pollution.” 

“Plastic packaging made with cheap, toxic chemicals may pad the profits of big corporations, but it puts Americans’ health and our environment at risk. This legislation will put an end to the use of these dangerous chemicals in beverage packaging and invest in cleaning up the damage plastic pollution has inflicted on our communities – particularly those that have been historically underserved,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

The toxic substances included in the bill have been listed by the national expert group, the U.S. Plastics Pact Group. Substances included in the Banning Toxics in Plastic Bottles Act list have been identified by the group as problematic or unnecessary due to their harm to human and environmental health, a high likelihood of being littered, ability to be avoided or replaced by another substance, hinderance waste processing, or inability to be recyclable, reusable, or composted. Large food and beverage companies, waste processors, trade associations, and nonprofits are supporters of the U.S. Plastics Pact. 

The State of Vermont has taken strong steps to protect people and the planet by prohibiting sale or use of harmful chemicals and toxins in food, drinking water, and various products. Vermont has regulated PFAS and other harmful chemicals in drinking water since 2019, and last year banned the manufacture and sale of food packages, cosmetics, clothing, ski wax, and other products that intentionally included PFAS. 

Earlier this month, Senator Welch applauded the Biden Administration’s creation of a first-ever nationally and legally enforceable drinking water standard for PFAS to protect millions from PFAS exposure and pollution.

The Banning Toxics in Plastic Bottles Act is endorsed by the Ocean Conservancy and Just Zero. 

“Plastics carry a cocktail of chemicals – on average, 7% of plastics by weight are chemical additives. These chemicals are known to leach out from beverage containers, contaminating our milk, water, juice, and sports drinks, and are linked to disorders and diseases like cancer and neurological impairments. The Banning Toxics in Plastic Bottles Act would eliminate these harmful chemicals from plastic beverage containers to prevent them from entering not only the things we drink but also the environment and ocean. We thank Senator Welch for his leadership on this critical issue, and we look forward to continuing our work with Congress on source reduction, supporting reuse and refill systems, and stronger enforcement and accountability for polluters,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, Associate Director, U.S. Plastics Policy, Ocean Conservancy

“The toxic chemicals in beverage containers inevitably end up in those beverages,” said Kirstie Pecci, Executive Director at Just Zero. “Everyone should be able to have a drink without worrying that it is harming their health. Just Zero applauds Senator Welch’s efforts to protect our health by banning some of the dangerous chemicals used in these containers.”   

Read the full text of the bill.