The newly introduced Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 is a super important milestone in U.S. environmental protection efforts. As this bill is a massive document, we created this guide in order for you to be able to read about all of the amazing elements this act actually includes.
Did you know that this proposed bill does not only address plastic production and pollution, but also other vital environmental areas, such as recycling, clean energy, circular economy efforts, educational community projects and even a national litter cleanup trust fund!
What is the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020?
It’s a bill that was presented to the U.S. House of Congress in February of 2020. The heads behind this innovative act are U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S Representative Alan Lowenthal, which All Good Newz wants to thank for having such a marvelous and ambitious idea!
What this act is aiming at is an entire battery of environmental protection efforts and improvements. It aims to implement more corporate social responsibility and makes producers fiscally responsible for collecting, managing and recycling, or composting, the products they produce and sell to the consumers. Two of it’s key areas include:
- a minimum percentage of products that must be reused, recycled, or composted
- products such as beverage containers must include an increasing percentage of recycled content
If this bill is passed in the senate and than is made into a law by the U.S. president, it will be a giant shift in America’s domestic environmental politics and a much needed one at that. Let’s take a look at some of the other awesome elements of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020.
Responsible collection and recycling of materials
Right now, the U.S. does not have a national law that mandates recycling. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 is here to change that! All U.S. producers of so called covered products, including packaging, containers or food service products, made of plastic, paper, glass or metal, shall be part of a newly established Producer Responsibility Organization.
This organization will oversee the producers’ programs, which will be managed and financed by the producers, aimed at implementing and improving available collection and recycling methods for their own products.
The overall goal of this section is to increase corporate social responsibility and to make producers and companies more self-aware of their waste and waste management.
National beverage container refund
This section is perhaps the most powerful action with respect to pollution and recycling efforts. Deposit refund systems can be extremely effective and often leads to much higher rates of recycling of PET bottles, cans and glass bottles. Sweden, my home country, is a perfect example of that, as the country has an annual recycling rate of over 86%.
The bill’s proposed beverage container refund means that producers are to charge retailers a deposit for each beverage container, most typically cans or PET bottles. The retailers in turn charge their customers that same deposit amount for each sold container.
When and if the customers return the empty containers, they get the deposit, which is proposed to be at least 10 cents, back from the retailer. The retailer then charges the returned deposit back to the producer. In this way, a perfect circular economy is created and many more containers are recycled, as customers want their money back. It’s a perfect system!
Additionally, it’s both fun and rewarding for the customers to get that refund. And some citizens, including the economically less fortunate, can earn a little extra on the side, thanks to the people who do not return their containers.
I speak from personal experience here. I teach my oldest daughter about environmental responsibility and every time we throw our trash, we check the can and plastic containers. We literally find and then return containers for at least $10 every month. Good for the environment and for my daughter’s little pig bank!
Partial waste export ban to developing countries
There shall be no export of plastic waste from the United States to countries that aren’t a member of the OECD – the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Furthermore, the receiving country’s relevant authorities must have given their prior informed consent about receiving the exported waste material, if that material is not made of single-use plastics or partially made of other materials, such as adhesives, waxes, paints, inks or other types of plastics.
The export of plastic waste that is contaminated with hazardous waste types is also going to be banned all together. Such waste types can include chemicals or toxic substances.
This section is especially crucial, as much of our plastic waste in the Western world ends up in poorer countries via simply exporting it there. Many of these countries lack proper recycling mechanisms, and hence all a majority of the plastic is transformed into direct pollution of land and water.
By doing so, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 addresses a much ignored type of pollution. Ghost nets can be found numerously in our oceans and they cause a lot of damage to various ecosystems and fish populations.
Related All Good Newz Article: UK to Stop Exporting Plastic Waste to Developing Countries
Clean communities programs
This sections highlights the social importance of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. It will establish clean communities programs with the help of modern technology and social media, in order to provide insights and technical assistance to local governments so that both concentrated areas of pollution can be identified more easily and effective source reduction solutions can be implemented.
Environmental justice is a truly interesting and awe-inspiring part of this new bill. What it stands for is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all individuals, regardless of race, color, national origin, educational level, or income”.
This section has in mind people of color, indigenous communities and low-income communities in the United States, for the most positive of reasons!
For one thing, the section ensures that these groups will gain more access to public information and opportunities for meaningful participation in environmental activities and programs.
For another, it makes sure that such groups are not exposed to a disproportionately large burden of the negative environmental or human health impacts of pollution or other environmental hazards, which they often are today!
This is a rather exceptional and super ambitious part of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020! It relates to the Clean Air Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and addresses plastic polymerization or polymer production facilities in the U.S. Such industries and facilities must use only renewable energy and must not emit any greenhouse gases at the production source.
If this change is not implemented, a state’s administrator shall not issue a new permit for the facility in question. This basically forces plastic producing industries to transform their productions and make them more environmentally friendly, at least at the source, which is a start.
Recycling and litter cleanup trust fund
The Treasury of the United States shall establish a trust fund called the “Recycling and Litter Cleanup Trust Fund”. This fund shall be used to make payments to store owners who adapt a carryout bag credit program, which implies bags for which a refund is provided to the customers (similar to the beverage container refund).
It shall also be used to make grants for reusable carryout bags and recycling, reuse and composting infrastructure, as well as litter cleanup on a national level.
Removal of derelict fishing gear in the oceans
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, there shall be submitted a report that includes a detailed analysis of the amount of fishing gear (mostly nets) that are lost at sea by U.S. and foreign fisheries.
The report shall give detailed explanations on what types of gear is lost in the oceans, what methods of fishing cause the loss of fishing gear, and the most common ways of how such gear is lost.
Also, an assessment of the human health and maritime safety impacts of lost fishing gear shall be included in the report, as well as management recommendations, concerning the future prevention of fishing gear losses and a reduction of the impacts of lost fishing gear.
Prohibition on singe-use plastic carryout bags
A retail or service establishment shall not provide at the point of a sale a single-use plastic bag to a consumer. If store owners violate this section, they can be fined $250 (first violation), $500 (second violation) or $1000 (third violation) by a state’s administrator. The prohibition is to take effect January 1, 2022.
This part may sound harsh, but it is actually a very effective way of easiliy and hurriedly reduce plastic pollution. Plastic bags especially are a pollutant that we will have to get rid off very quickly, as they, for example, make up more than 40% of the annual 8 million tonnes of plastic waste that enter our oceans.
The fact that the law makers give the industry and the store owners a period of 2 years to implement the change and to find eco-friendly alternatives makes this prohibition much more reasonable than to just ban it today without providing any type of plan and time frame.
Related All Good Newz Article: Ambitious New York Plastic Bag Ban to Take Effect March 1st
Outreach and education
Perhaps most importantly, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 includes outreach and educational programs that aim to teach the American public about proper end-life management of packaging and container products, the location and availability of drop-off collection opportunities, how to prevent litter covered products and beverage containers, as well as easy accessible and understandable recycling and composting.
In addition, such educational programs are aimed to be carried out all over the country, so that the level of knowledge and awareness grows equally among all U.S. citizens. The programs shall also include consulting efforts, cooperation with municipalities, outreach and education to all of America’s ethnic groups, and the establishment of informative consumer websites and applications.
In conclusion, if passed, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 is a true act of innovation and modernity, especially for a country such as the United States of America. The lawmakers behind this bill should be really proud of themselves and I want to wish all Americans good luck on their journey toward a cleaner and more sustainable future!