A first version of the bill was introduced in 2020 (FPF reported) but did not make it through the lawmaking process. This most recent version of the bill is described as proposing very similar targets and restrictions set out in last year’s version. This includes the creation of a nationwide extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for packaging, establishing minimum recycled content limits, developing a container deposit system, and introducing bans on single-use plastic products. Additional focus is placed on promoting plastic source reduction through refillable and reusable containers. A new (and seemingly controversial) addition is the implementation of a three-year stop of permit issuing for the construction of new plastics manufacturing and chemical recycling facilities.
The bill has been sponsored by Alan Lowenthal from California and Jeff Merkley from Oregon. More than 400 civil society groups have signed a letter supporting the bill, and the sponsors believe there has been significantly increasing support from key stakeholders that will help the bill move forward in the lawmaking process. A few large civil society organizations have also launched a campaign calling for the Biden administration to implement a set of eight priority actions to address the plastic pollution crisis.
However, the new act has continued to receive criticism from the plastic and recycling industries, which argue that the stop of new facility permits is unnecessary and harmful for the economy. These stakeholders are instead backing a separate bill known as the RECYCLE Act, which proposes to instead focus efforts on public education and outreach to increase plastic recycling rates.
Julia John (March 26, 2021). “US plastic pollution bill highlights growing push for producer responsibility.” Chemical Watch
117th US Congress. (March 2021). “RYA21300 SY9 – Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.”
Megan Quinn (March 25, 2021). “Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act reintroduced, plastics industry ramps up opposition.” Waste Dive