Want to break free from plastic pollution? Here’s how you can help

Want to break free from plastic pollution? Here’s how you can help

By Sofia Barandiaran and Felipe Barandiaran

Advocacy opportunities and email+phone guides below!

Want to take part in decisive, meaningful action on plastic pollution? NOW is the time to act. Together, we can turn the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act into law. This Act will create a national bottle bill, empowering Cycle to make an even greater impact on the way the nation recycles. The case of Cycle shows that this Act is a game changer–here’s why.

We need significant government action to tackle the issue of plastic pollution. A way to do this is to introduce and advocate for bold federal legislation that directly addresses waste and inefficiency in the packaging industry. Enter The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. This bill, introduced in the House of Representatives on February 11, 2020, sets forth requirements related to waste and recycling systems for the purpose of reducing plastic waste. The Surfrider Foundation has worked tirelessly with U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal to introduce this legislation with the goal of changing the way we recycle — for the better. First, the bill will require that producers of certain products (packaging, paper, single-use products, beverage containers) take fiscal responsibility for collecting, managing, and repurposing the products after they are used by consumers. This in itself is a concrete step towards having a circular economy. The bill will also ban the production of single-use plastics that aren’t recyclable, and disincentive the use of carryout bags through the imposition of a fee. These aspects of the bill will fundamentally change the unsustainable practices of the packaging industry and consumer habits. The bill also has provisions to spur massive investment in U.S. domestic recycling infrastructure, and to prohibit the exportation of our plastic waste to developing countries. This will stimulate the economy by creating new jobs.

Among the solutions that the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act proposes is a nationwide beverage container refund program (bottle bill). Bottle bills create powerful incentives for recycling by allowing consumers to receive refunds for each bottle or can that they return to an eligible redemption center. Ten US states and the territory of Guam currently use bottle bills to boost recycling. On average, states with bottle bills have a beverage container recycling rate of 60%, compared to 24% for states without bottle bills, according to the Container Recycling Institute. And yet for years, big beverage companies that claim to support recycling have opposed the adoption of bottle bills in the 40 states that don’t yet have them because the bills would cost the companies money, the New York Times reports.

Cycle is a perfect case study of the sorts of innovations in recycling that a nationwide bottle bill would empower. Without a bottle bill, Cycle pays users for the market value of their recyclable bottles and cans, which can fluctuate greatly but often comes to around one to two cents per container in Florida. Under the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, each eligible container would garner a refund of at least ten cents–a dramatic and impactful increase that reflects some of the true social and environmental value of recycling. The Act would therefore empower Cycle to provide greater incentives for users to recycle, earn more money for their good deeds, and donate more money to eligible charities through our app. By creating a price floor, a national bottle bill would also help the recycling market weather shocks like China’s 2018 decision to stop accepting most foreign recyclables. The example of Cycle highlights the importance of strong policy leadership in the environmental space: Smart policy empowers innovators and entrepreneurs to multiply our impact on pressing environmental issues.

The example of Cycle highlights the importance of strong policy leadership in the environmental space: Smart policy empowers innovators and entrepreneurs to multiply our impact on pressing environmental issues.

Now is a crucial time to take action on the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. The Act was introduced to the House and Senate in February and is currently in the committee phase. The next steps are for it to move to the House and Senate floors for a vote. We need your help to build momentum for the Act. Here are four concrete actions you can take today to help make the Break Free from Plastic Act law:

Add your voice to an existing campaign or petition.

These are easy ways to make an impact in under a minute:

1. Use this tool from the Surfrider Foundation, which finds your elected officials and emails them for you. You can send their pre-written email as is or customize it.

2. Sign this change.org petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Do it yourself for a much greater impact.

Email: Template emails are easy for legislators to ignore–if you write something personalized, they are much more likely to pay attention. Here are some simple steps to get you on your way to writing an email:

  1. Use this tool from Common Cause to identify your representative and senators. Follow the links to their website to find their email addresses.
  2. Start drafting an email. Here are some points to hit–put them in your own words if possible.
  3. Create a to-the-point subject line–something like “Pass the Break Free from Plastic Act”
  4. Tell them your name and that you are their constituent.
  5. State your demand up front: Tell them you are writing to urge them to pass the Break Free from Plastic Act.
  6. Tell them why this is important to you. Some facts (with sources!) that you can include: Only 8.4% of plastics in the US are recycled, according to the EPAGlobally, 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each yearOn average, states with bottle bills have a beverage container recycling rate of 60%, compared to 24% for states without bottle bills, according to the Container Recycling Institute.
  7. Include your personal motivation if applicable–have you had specific experiences that make you care about this issue?
  8. Include a link to resources: You can link our article, or this one from Surfrider, or this one from 4ocean.

Call: To make a phone call, you can use this script or shake it up as desired–remember, the more personalized the better.

“Hi my name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m a constituent of [YOUR LEGISLATOR]. I’m calling to urge you to support the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, which would hold businesses accountable for the plastic waste they create and provide incentives for better recycling. According to the EPA, only 8.4% of plastics in the US are currently recycled, and studies show that globally 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. We must take action to stop this. The Act would create a national bottle bill, which has been shown to be remarkably effective at increasing recycling rates: On average, states with bottle bills have a beverage container recycling rate of 60%, compared to 24% for states without bottle bills, according to the Container Recycling Institute. Please take action to pass the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. Thank you.”

We can break free from plastic pollution–take action today to help us get there. How will you advocate for change?

Sources:

4ocean. 2020. “Why 4ocean Supports the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (And Why You Should, Too!).” June 26, 2020. https://legacy.4ocean.com/blogs/blog/why-4ocean-supports-the-break-free-from-plastic-pollution-act-and-why-you-should-too.

Container Recycling Institute. “Bottle Bills.” Accessed July 1, 2020. http://www.container-recycling.org/index.php/issues/bottle-bills.

Corkery, Michael. 2019. “Beverage Companies Embrace Recycling, Until it Costs Them.” New York Times, July 4, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/04/business/plastic-recycling-bottle-bills.html.

Jambeck, Jenna R., Roland Geyer, Chris Wilcox, Theodor R. Siegler, Miriam Perryman, Anthony Andrady, Ramani Narayan, and Kara Lavender Law. 2015. “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean.” Science 347, no. 6223 (February): 768–771. Accessed via https://jambeck.engr.uga.edu/landplasticinput.

Katz, Cheryl. 2019. “Piling Up: How China’s Ban on Importing Waste Has Stalled Global Recycling.” Yale Environment 360, March 7, 2019. https://e360.yale.edu/features/piling-up-how-chinas-ban-on-importing-waste-has-stalled-global-recycling.

National Conference of State Legislators. 2020. “State Beverage Container Deposit Laws.” March 13, 2020. https://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/state-beverage-container-laws.aspx.

Surfrider Foundation. 2020. “Federal Break Free From Pollution Act Introduced!” February 12, 2020. https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/federal-break-free-from-plastic-pollution-act-introduced.

US Congress. House. Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. HR 5845. 116th Cong. Introduced in House February 11, 2020. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5845.

US Congress. Senate. Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. S 3263. 116th Cong. Introduced in Senate February 11, 2020. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3263.

US EPA. “Plastics: Material-Specific Data.” Accessed July 1, 2020. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/plastics-material-specific-data.