Plastic Free July 2020
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, household waste from packaged online orders, disposable take-out containers, and other single-use disposables is at an all time high. We also know that as much waste is produced by households, industry produces about 70 times that amount upstream. We are in one of the worst eras of plastic pollution ever, but we are also in one of the best moments of plastic pollution activism! Join us in celebrating Plastic Free July - a month dedicated to raising awareness and taking action to fight plastic pollution.
One of the most important actions to take this month is to urge your representatives in Congress to co-sponsor the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (S3263/HR5845). This is a strong federal bill, introduced by Senator Tom Udall and Representative Alan Lowenthal, that focuses on waste prevention through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Instead of emphasizing consumer choices, littering, or clean-ups, EPR is a policy tool to hold corporations responsible for the waste that is designed into our economy. This helps the supply side of the economy shift toward waste reduction and reuse and create a more systemic solution to plastic pollution. The bill will establish minimum recycled content requirements for packaging and will create a national beverage container refund program. It will also reduce and ban some common single-use disposable plastics! You can contact your representatives here.
The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will take some time, effort, and bipartisan support from every district in every state in order to pass. It will also require more local actions and policies to build momentum. With that said, this bill is an excellent blueprint for states to use to pass their own EPR policies. New Jersey's Senate Environment Committee has already introduced S2525, legislation to establish recycled content requirements for plastic and glass disposable packaging and to prohibit the sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging. New Jersey is also close to passing S864/A1978, a bill to ban single-use plastic and paper carryout bags, polystyrene foam foodware, and limit straw usage to "by request" of customers only. We need our NJ legislative leadership to make this a priority and move this bill forward. You can contact them here.
To take action even more locally, now is as good a time as any to urge your town to pass a local ordinance banning single-use plastics. Despite the lockdown, several NJ towns have recently passed or strengthened existing plastics ordinances, making the total count of local laws over 60! You can contact your local government here.
Because this Plastic Free July is happening during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also more important than ever to stay informed when making choices for your safety and the safety of the environment. Reusables are still safe! The CDC has confirmed no cases from contact with surfaces. In an abundance of caution, any surface - whether disposable or reusable - could potentially have been exposed, but studies show that viruses can live longer on plastic surfaces than others. This means that reusables - which are designed to be washable - are your safest bet! You can still take the Plastic Free July Challenge and keep using your reusables.
Here are some additional resources for staying informed this Plastic Free July:
Watch our Consumer Footprints webinar on the link between consumerism, plastics, and climate change from our Earth Month Climate Series.
Read this statement from international health experts addressing safety of reusables and COVID-19.
Additional posts from the Clean Water blog We All Live Downstream:
Learn more about our ReThink Disposable program to help businesses, governments, and communities prevent waste and save mone: rethinkdisposable.org