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Bonamici, Merkley, Lowenthal, Lead Bicameral Effort to Push Biden Administration to Tackle Explosion of Plastic Pollution at G7 Summit

June 9, 2021
Press Release
Tackling plastic pollution is an opportunity for America to lead and to protect public health and crucial ecosystems

 

Washington, D.C. – With a G7 Summit just around the corner, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), is pushing the Biden administration to work toward a global agreement to address marine plastic litter and microplastics.

“Plastic pollution has exploded into a global crisis that threatens our public health, economic security, and the future of our planet. We need bold action to tackle this crisis and we have a unique moment to work with our colleagues around the world to break free from plastic pollution,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We are writing to encourage your Administration’s full participation in international dialogues to establish a binding global agreement to address plastic pollution.”

“The G7 Leaders’ Summit represents a vital opportunity to demonstrate American leadership on a critical international issue. It is important to address plastic pollution as an environmental, environmental justice, and climate crisis through green recovery efforts as the world aims to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic,” they continued. “We encourage your Administration to participate in discussions to launch a global agreement to address marine plastic litter and microplastics in advance of the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly. We urge your Administration to advocate for a binding agreement that addresses both land- and sea-based sources and looks to upstream solutions for addressing this challenge through source reduction.”

The lawmakers emphasized that this crisis requires American leadership on the international stage, and encouraged the administration to engage in international discussions and implement domestic policies that will effectively minimize our plastic waste.

 

The letter follows the introduction of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act—legislation led by Merkley in the U.S. Senate and by Lowenthal in the U.S. House of Representatives—that outlines 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.

Merkley, Lowenthal, and Bonamici were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Angus King (I-ME) in the U.S. Senate, and by Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA-04), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Ed Case (D-HI-01), David N. Cicilline (D-RI-01), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO-05), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA-11), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR-04), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11), Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), Mondaire Jones (D-NY-17), Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Doris Matsui (D-CA-06), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-00), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01), Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Kim Schrier (D-WA-08), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03), Darren Soto (D-FL-09), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA-10), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY-03), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), Paul D. Tonko (D-NY-20), Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15), Juan Vargas (D-CA-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), and Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

###

Dear President Biden,

 

We write to you to share our strong support for protecting our environment and our ocean from the devastating impacts of plastic pollution. We were excited to learn that United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has added to the agenda for the G7 Leaders’ Summit the goal to start negotiations for a global agreement to address marine plastic litter and microplastics. Plastic pollution represents a global crisis that will require bold international cooperation to address. We write to urge your Administration’s full participation and support for this process and other international forums to show America’s commitment to leadership in addressing this global crisis.

 

Nearly 11 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean every year – from sources at-sea and on land.[1] Without any action, this flow is expected to triple to nearly 29 million metric tons by 2040.1 This plastic pollution causes incredible harm on wildlife through ingestion and entanglement – globally, 100,000 marine mammals die every year as a result of plastic pollution.[2] However, the impacts of plastic extend far beyond harming wildlife and polluting our shores – plastic production and waste management are directly contributing to climate change. The greenhouse gas emissions linked to this production are estimated to reach 1.3 billion tons by 2030, equivalent to 300 coal-fired power plants. We cannot tackle the issue of climate change or environmental justice without addressing plastic waste.

 

A recent study found that despite the United States only accounting for 4% of the global population in 2016, the U.S. generated 17% of all plastic waste and ranks third among countries contributing to coastal plastic pollution.[3] The science is clear – all this plastic impacts human health from toxic chemicals leaching out of plastic to the fact that the average person ingests nearly a credit card’s amount of microplastics each week.[4]Americans are fed up with the plastic pollution crisis and broadly support many steps to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

 

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the U.S. exported 1.37 billion pounds of scrap plastic in 2020.[5] At least 40% of this plastic waste was exported to countries outside the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that have high percentages of waste mismanagement, such as India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The U.S. has been sending scrap recycling materials to Asia for several decades, but the unacceptable environmental and social impacts of this practice have become clear. The ability to properly handle these materials is overwhelming and the impact is past a crisis tipping point.

 

Plastic pollution has exploded into a global crisis that threatens our public health, economic security, and the future of our planet. We need bold action to tackle this crisis and we have a unique moment to work with our colleagues around the world to break free from plastic pollution. We are writing to encourage your Administration’s full participation in international dialogues to establish a binding global agreement to address plastic pollution.

 

The G7 Leaders’ Summit represents a vital opportunity to demonstrate American leadership on a critical international issue. It is important to address plastic pollution as an environmental, environmental justice, and climate crisis through green recovery efforts as the world aims to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage your Administration to participate in discussions to launch a global agreement to address marine plastic litter and microplastics in advance of the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly. We urge your Administration to advocate for a binding agreement that addresses both land- and sea-based sources and looks to upstream solutions for addressing this challenge through source reduction.

 

The U.S. is one of only 8 countries to not ratify the Basel Convention. While the U.S. signed the Basel Convention in 1990 and the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent for ratification in 1992, lack of implementing legislation has prevented the U.S. from participating. We stand ready to work with you to ensure U.S. compliance with the Basel Convention and encourage your Administration to develop domestic regulatory policies to prohibit the export of plastic waste to countries outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

 

We believe the U.S can show global leadership on plastic pollution by engaging in international discussions and implementing domestic policies that will effectively minimize our plastic waste.

We thank you for your continued leadership and look forward to working with you on this issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 


 

[1] “Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution.” Pew Charitable Trusts.

[2] “Facts and Figures on Marine Pollution.” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

[3] Law, K.L. “The United States’ Contribution of Plastic Waste to Land and Ocean.” Science Advances.

[5] U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, December 2020.