OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a multistate coalition in comments to the General Services Administration (GSA) on its proposal to explore pathways to reduce federal purchases of unnecessary single-use plastic products and packaging. Plastic is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, persists in the environment for centuries, and is hazardous to public health. In April 2022, Attorney General Bonta launched a first-of-its-kind investigation into fossil fuel and petrochemical companies for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastic pollution crisis. Today’s letter builds on the Attorney General’s efforts to address plastic pollution in California communities.
“Without aggressive federal action, the global plastic pollution crisis is only going to get worse,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In California, we’ve launched a first-of-its-kind investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their decades-long campaign of deception around the recyclability of plastic products. But we must also take action to reduce our consumption of these products. I urge the GSA to show the way forward and adopt an aggressive timeline to phase out single-use plastics at the federal level.”
The rapidly increasing production of single-use plastic products has long overwhelmed the world’s ability to manage them. Every year, tens of millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean. Plastic pollution is pervasive in California, polluting the state’s rivers, beaches, bays, and ocean waters and costing the state an estimated half a billion dollars each year in clean up and prevention. Plastic does not fully degrade, instead breaking down into smaller pieces called microplastics. Microplastics have been found in our drinking water, our food, and even the air we breathe.
The global plastics pollution crisis has been driven by the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries. In the 1950s, the world produced approximately 1.5 million tons of plastic annually. Today, that number has skyrocketed to more than 300 million tons with plans to continue to increase supply in the coming decades. In response, the plastics industry, comprised of major fossil fuel and petrochemical companies, began an aggressive – and deceptive – marketing and advertising campaign to convince the public that they could recycle their way out of the plastic waste problem. But the truth is the vast majority of plastic products, by design, cannot be recycled. Today, the rate of plastic recycling in the U.S. is just 6%. The remaining 94% is landfilled, incinerated, or otherwise released into the environment.
The federal government is the largest consumer of goods and services in the world, and likely one of the largest, if not the largest, consumer of single-use plastics in the United States. Policy changes to the federal government's procurement of single-use plastics would be an important first step to reducing consumption of single-use plastics nationwide and pave the way for further similar state action. In the letter, the coalition argues that the GSA has authority to reduce and ultimately eliminate the procurement of single-use plastics, and that GSA should prioritize the purchase of sustainable alternatives and adopt an aggressive timeline to phase out single-use plastics.
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the City of New York, in filing the letter.
A copy of the letter is available here.