Attorney General Bonta Leads Coalition in Calling For Broader, More Robust Federal Strategy to Fight Plastic Pollution Crisis

Tuesday, August 1, 2023
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OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced leading a coalition of 14 states in urging the Biden administration to adopt a more comprehensive strategy to combat the plastic pollution crisis. Plastic does not fully degrade, instead breaking down into smaller pieces called microplastics, which have been found in drinking water, food, air, and even human blood and living lung tissue. Plastic manufacturing itself is highly hazardous, with the pollution burden disproportionately affecting low-income communities and communities of color. In today’s letter addressed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the coalition called on the agency to implement a broader and more robust plan that would not only improve plastic waste management, but would also dramatically reduce the production of plastic materials and decrease our reliance on them.
“Plastics are seeping into our waterways, contaminating our air, and poisoning our environment,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The harm from all this is disproportionately borne by our most vulnerable communities. We must act now to protect them. That’s why today, California and its partners call on the Biden administration to rethink and expand its strategy in the fight against plastic pollution. It’s not enough to just deal with the waste we create, we must attack the root cause of this problem and create more sustainable solutions for our communities and our planet.”
As the global production of plastics has skyrocketed, so has the resulting waste, which pollutes America's land and water. But the dangerous impacts of plastics begin well before they are consumed and turned into waste. Plastic manufacturing plants are often located in or near low-income communities and communities of color. Such communities bear the brunt of the plastic pollution crisis — breathing in the worst air, drinking the worst water, and tragically, developing cancer at higher rates. 
The nation’s strategy in dealing with plastics has historically focused on improving recycling and cleaning up plastic pollution when it is already too late. In today’s letter, the coalition urges the EPA to broaden its approach and implement aggressive interventions at every stage of the plastic waste life cycle, including measures to dramatically reduce the production of virgin plastic i.e. new, unused plastic. The letter also recommends that EPA not consider any process other than mechanical recycling to qualify as “recycling” unless the process meets rigorous standards that promote circularity and protect the environment and human health. 
Specific recommendations by the coalition include:

  • Reducing plastic production as part of global, U.S., and state greenhouse gas emissions targets.
  • Protecting communities from new petrochemical plants or capacity expansion at existing plants.
  • Prioritizing funding innovative strategies that reduce overall plastic use and plastic packaging needs and promote reuse of materials.
  • Adopting and administering a national plastic products labeling standard to combat deceptive environmental marketing.
  • Adopting stringent criteria for processes other than mechanical recycling to qualify as “recycling” that protect the environment and human health.
  • Broadening the scope of the plastic waste reduction strategy to include assessments of the fast fashion industry, which produces and sells cheap polyester clothing meant to be minimally worn and disposed of quickly, resulting in a massive volume of textiles ending up in landfills frequently.

Attorney General Bonta has been committed to the fight against plastic pollution. In April 2022, he announced an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis. In September 2022, he joined a multistate coalition in submitting 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. In November 2022, he sent letters to seven manufacturers of plastic bags demanding that they substantiate their claims that the bags are recyclable. In April, he co-led a multistate coalition in submitting comments to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to strengthen its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims to combat greenwashing of products, including misleading claims that certain plastic products are recyclable. 
Attorney General Bonta leads the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Vermont in filing the letter. 
A copy of today’s letter can be found here

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