US lawmakers introduce bill to ban most single-use plastics, with exception for seafood

An image of plastic in the ocean.

U.S. lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would ban most single-use plastic products and pause plastic production as part of a growing movement to tackle plastic pollution.

“Plastic pollution isn’t just a problem for our oceans and climate – it's a massive environmental injustice,” U.S. Representative Jared Huffman said. “Communities are overburdened with plastics’ toxic air and water emissions and the false promises of so-called chemical recycling.”

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2023 “tackles the plastic pollution crisis head on, addressing the harmful climate and environmental justice impacts of this growing fossil fuel sector and moving our economy away from its overreliance on single use plastic,” Huffman added. “We must start putting people and communities over these corporations’ greed.”

The legislation would ban or limit single-use plastic products, provide grants for reusable and refillable products, and place a pause on the establishment of new plastic facilities.

There are some exemptions to the bill’s ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene food containers. The legislation would not ban the use of single-use plastic bags for fish sold at bait shops or bags containing unwrapped food items. Polystyrene trays used for refrigerated fish products would be exempt from the ban for two years. Fish trays made from black plastic would be banned one year after the legislation is enacted.

The seafood sector has worked to reduce the amount of plastic used in its products, turning to alternatives as consumers look to avoid plastic wrappings.

A previous iteration of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act also targeted derelict fishing gear as another source of plastic pollution, but that section has been removed from the 2023 version. The prior version required a report on the scale of fishing gear losses and recommendations on how to prevent those losses. Conservation groups are working to include abandoned fishing gear in the Global Plastics Treaty being discussed by the United Nations.

Ocean conservation groups hailed the latest iteration of the legislation as a necessary step in tackling plastic pollution.

“We’re at a crisis point with plastic pollution and need action,” Oceana Campaign Director Christy Leavitt said. “Plastic pollution harms our oceans, climate, communities, and wildlife. The solution is to stop plastic pollution at the source by reducing the production and use of unnecessary single-use plastic and move to refillable and reusable systems. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act does just that.”

The bill also would fund a microplastics pilot program that test methods of removing microplastics from the environment.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Tanya Sid


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