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What Public Policies Will Help?

To help keep plastics out of the environment, public policy both at home and abroad should be designed to improve waste management and recovery of used plastics… and expand the multiple ways used plastics can be repurposed to create valuable new products.

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We Support

  • We supported the Save Our Seas Act, a 2018 law that accelerates the federal government’s efforts to tackle marine litter, and we currently support the Save Our Seas Act 2.0.
  • We supported legislation to help keep plastic raw materials out of the environment, including expansion of Operation Clean Sweep, an industry-wide campaign designed to prevent plastic resin pellets, flakes, and powders (raw materials) from reaching the environment. We support implementation of Operation Clean Sweep globally.
  • We supported legislation in the United States to remove plastic micro-beads from many consumer goods, and we support similar policies globally.
  • We support legislation that will lead to recycling of foodservice ware. For example, we supported legislation in California that requires all types of food ware at state facilities to be recyclable or compostable.
  • We supported “straws on request only” policies.
  • We support the RECOVER Act (Realizing the Economic Opportunities and Value of Expanding Recycling) that would create federal grants to aid recycling facilities and the use of recycled materials.
  • We support state and federal legislation that expands opportunities for new technologies that repurpose used plastics into multiple products, such as industrial chemicals/products, transportation fuels, and even raw materials for plastic resins.

In addition, public initiatives should consider the full life cycle attributes of materials, packaging, and products and should treat materials (paper, metals, plastics, etc.) equitably. When creating policy, we must account for greenhouse gas emissions and potential impacts on food waste in addition to how used packaging is recovered and repurposed.

Public policy should address the root causes of plastic entering the environment and focus on education, improving recovery of used plastics, innovative product design, and technologies that lead to a circular economy for plastics.

For More Information: Proposals to strengthen plastics collection and to encourage investment in technologies that repurpose used plastics to create valuable new products

What Doesn’t Work

We don’t believe that product-by-product bans are an effective way to end plastics in our environment. While product bans might feel good to some, they may lead to greater use of alternatives that increase our environmental footprint and still fail to address the root cause of the problem. Product bans are a step backward for our environment and economy.

  • Banning plastic packaging and consumer goods has been shown to result in greater cost to the environment. Life-cycle studies demonstrate the environmental cost of using plastics in consumer goods and packaging is nearly four times less than it would be if we switched to alternatives. In fact, replacing all plastic packaging with alternatives would significantly increase energy use, create more greenhouse gas emissions, and result in more waste.
  • A little plastic packaging can help prevent a lot of wasted food. Nearly 40 percent of food produced in the United States spoils before it can be eaten. Food is the number one material buried in U.S. landfills. And food production emits as much as 13 percent of greenhouse gasses—if food waste were a country, it would be is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Every time food is wasted, all the natural resources that went into producing it (water, land, energy, fuel, etc.) are wasted, as well. In addition, it’s estimated that ten times more resources are used to make and distribute food than are used to make the packaging that protects it. Efficient packaging is a small investment in the resources we use to produce food.

  • Banning plastics would force businesses and consumers to change the products they use but would not prevent litter. Studies of litter in San Francisco show that banning certain types of food ware simply changed the type of litter found across the city.
  • It’s also important that we maintain and increase convenient access to collection points for recycling flexible plastic bags and wraps. More than 18,000 grocery and retail stores allow consumers to bring back used plastic bags and wraps to be recycled. This includes bags from produce, bread, and store carryout; wraps from paper towels, napkins, and beverage cases; and shipping pillows and bubble wrap. These items are widely recycled, but they require a different system than curbside recycling.

Increasing costs on the environment, consumers, and businesses is unhelpful. To keep plastics out of the environment, legislators should pursue policies that expand opportunities to recover more plastics and increase the multiple ways used plastics can be repurposed, among other common sense measures.

America's Plastic Makers® are the leading U.S. producers of plastic resin who are among the world’s foremost providers of innovations, which improve the quality of our lives, our environment, and our economy. America's Plastic Makers® is a registered mark of the American Chemistry Council, Inc.