Protecting Communities from Plastics Act

12/1/22 Press Release: U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-2nd), together with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47th), introduced the Protecting Communities from Plastics Act, legislation that addresses the plastic production crisis that is fueling climate change and perpetuating environmental injustice.

With plastic production and consumption on track to double in the next decade, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions threaten to put our climate goals further out of reach, while expanded plastic production will drive more pollution in environmental justice communities around the United States. Petrochemical, plastic production, and waste incineration facilities, which are disproportionately located in or near Black, Brown, and low-wealth communities, release harmful air and water pollution that cause increased incidences of asthma, cancers, endocrine disruption, development disorders, and heart disease. Transitioning off of fossil fuels only to replace that demand with more fossil-based plastic production is not a sustainable solution, and will continue to perpetuate existing climate and environmental justice impacts.

The Protecting Communities from Plastics Act would directly tackle the plastic pollution crisis by cracking down on the plastic production process, building on key provisions from the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to address the harmful environmental justice impacts of this growing sector, and moving our economy away from an overreliance on single-use plastic. It establishes stricter rules for petrochemical plants to safeguard the health of American communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions fueling the climate crisis. The bill would also begin to shift the U.S. economy away from its dependence on certain single-use plastics, creating new nationwide targets for plastic source reduction and reuse in the packaging and food service sectors. These targets are paired with federal incentives to spur expansion of reusable and refillable systems, with an emphasis on ensuring benefits are realized in environmental justice communities.

Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act HR 2238/S 984 has been re-introduced in the 117th Congress. It is a federal bill that will do a variety of things to reduce plastics at the source.

To support the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, you can ask your members of Congress to cosponsor this bill by signing the letter here.  No donation is necessary to sign this letter to your member of Congress. (You can also write a handwritten letter to your member of Congress, and call their offices). Since it is a federal bill, it doesn’t matter which state you live in. Anyone in the US can sign:

You can also call the office of your members of Congress. You have one US Representative and you have 2 US Senators. Tell the staff who answers the phone that you are a constituent and that you would like your member of Congress to cosponsor the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. If you don’t know who your US Representative is, find out here. If you live in Florida, your US Senators are Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Follow up after your phone call to see if your Representative/Senators cosponsored this bill. Save these phone numbers in your contacts list.

Sample phone script (staff will answer the phone): “Hello, my name is __ and I am a constituent. I am calling to ask Representative/Senator ___ to cosponsor and support the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act HR 2238/S 984.”

It takes less than one minute to call! You can even leave a voicemail after hours if you’re too shy to speak with a real person.

You can also call and ask for an appointment to speak with your member of Congress or speak with the in-district director. Some members are holding virtual meetings. Find your US Senator here. Find your US Representative here.


Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act during the 116th Congress– the first comprehensive bill in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis. It has been re-introduced in the 117th Congress in March 2021 by Merkley and Lowenthal.

Tips for influencing your MoCs (members of Congress):

(Source: Indivisible)

  • Find your three MoCs, their official websites, and their office contact info.
  • Sign up on your MoCs’ websites to receive regular email updates, invites to local events, and propaganda to understand what they’re saying. Every MoC has an e-newsletter.
  • Set up a Google News Alert — for example for “Rep. Bob Smith” — to receive an email whenever your MoCs are in the news.
  • Research on Google News what local reporters have written about your MoCs. Find and follow those reporters on Twitter, and build relationships. Before you attend or plan an event, reach out and explain why your group is holding the event, and provide them with background materials and a quote.
  • MoCs regularly hold local “town halls” or public listening sessions throughout their districts or state. If you can’t find announcements online, call your MoC directly to find out. When you call, be friendly and say to the staffer, “Hi, I’m a constituent, and I’d like to know when his/her next town hall forum will be.” If they don’t know, ask to be added to the email list so that you get notified when they do.
  • In addition to town halls, MoCs regularly attend public events for other purposes — parades, infrastructure groundbreakings, etc. Like town halls, these are opportunities to get face time with the MoCs.
  • Every MoC has at least one district office, and many MoCs have several spread through their district or state. The official webpage for your MoC will list the address of every local office. You can find those webpages easily through a simple Google search. Even if you are able to get a one-off meeting with the MoC, you are most often going to be meeting with their staff. In district, the best person to meet with is the district director, or the head of the local district office you’re visiting. There are real advantages to building a relationship with these staff.
  • Follow these steps for a good in-person staff meeting:
  1. Have a specific “ask” — e.g., vote against X, cosponsor Y, publicly state Z, etc. Example: “I would like you to cosponsor the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.”
  2. Know your talking points, including what to say if you get push-back.
  3. Leave staff with a brief write-up of your issue, with your ask clearly stated. You may choose to leave literature about plastics.
  4. Share a personal story of how you or someone in your group is personally impacted by this specific issue.
  5. Be polite — yelling at the underpaid, overworked staffer won’t help your cause.
  6. Be persistent — get their business card and call/email them regularly; ask if the MoC has taken action on the issue. “Just following up to see if you will cosponsor the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.”
  7. Communicate on social media. Take and send pictures with your group: “At Congressman Smith’s office with 10 other constituents to ask him to cosponsor the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.” Tag your MoC!
  8. Not getting anywhere with your member of Congress? Write a Letter to the Editor and submit it to be published in your local newspaper. Name your member of Congress in the LTE. Guidance is here.
Marine Debris at Mizell Eula Johnson State Park, Broward County

About the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will include the following elements:

  • The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act would put in place a set of policies to effectively tackle the challenge of plastic pollution, including phasing out some of the single-use plastics commonly found polluting our beaches,such as plastic bags, food ware made from expanded polystyrene foam and plastic utensils.
  • The bill protects the ability of state and local governments to enact stronger standards and additional limits on single use plastics, and puts a temporary pause on new and expanded plastic production facilities and direct the EPA to update Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act standards for these facilities.
  • Medical equipment, including PPE,  has been, is, and will continue to be, exempt.

The bill will also:

  • prevent U.S. plastic waste from being shipped to developing countries
  • Expand reuse and refill programs
  • Tackle plastic pellet pollution to regulate effluent discharge limits
  • institute a nationwide beverage container refund program
  • require product producers to take responsibility for their product waste
  • establish minimum recycled content requirements
  • Regulate toxic chemicals related to plastics (PFAS, ortho-phalates, and others)
  • Address microfiber pollution
  • Study and action on derelict fishing gear.

Updates for the 117th Congress re-introduction: 

  • Additional language to ensure minimum standards for what bags can be considered “reusable.”
    • Incorporated a “stitched handle” requirement for reusable bags.   
  • Expands the definition of toxic chemicals and prohibits such toxic chemicals to be included in covered products.
    • Expands the definition to prohibit ortho-phthalates, halogenated and nanoscale flame retardants and chemicals of emerging concern.
    • Updated the definition of compostable to ban the inclusion of toxic chemicals. 
  • Closes waste export loopholes by banning exports to countries who themselves re-export waste to countries outside the OECD. 
  • Includes language justice requirements.
    • Lays out a definition for translation services that requires professional language interpretation and translation services in any language spoken by more than 5 percent of the population residing within the community for written documents and notices and oral communication and hearings. 
  • Updates recycled content standards to a more aggressive timeline, requiring that plastic beverage containers include 50% post-consumer recycled content by 2030 (previously 30%).
  • Expands support for reuse and refill programs through establishing the EPA Administrator to lay our minimum requirements on reusable packaging, expanding pilot programs for reuse and refill technology and eliminating plastic produce bags. 
  • Includes action to address microfiber pollution including mandating filters on washing machines and grants to fund research on best practices for upstream microfiber pollution prevention. 
  • Expands language tackling plastic pellet pollution to regulate effluent discharge limits and wet wipe labeling standards.
  • Includes action on microplastic pollution including funding for pilot programs for removal and prevention of microplastic pollution.
  • Clearly specifies that personal protective equipment (e.g., masks, gloves, face shields) and other medically necessary equipment are excluded from bans under this bill. 

Read an Op-Ed by the bill sponsors (Jeff Merkley and Alan Lowenthal) here.

Hannah 4 Change speaks in support of the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. Photo: Hannah 4 Change

Plastic pellets. Photo: Surfrider Foundation

Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act

The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act was introduced in the House in May 2022. This bill HR 7861 requires the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule that prohibits certain discharges of plastic pellets and other preproduction plastic into waters of the United States.

Read the press release here. Ask your US Representatives to cosponsor HR 7861.

CALL TO ACTION: Plastic producers are still spilling tons of plastic pellets into our oceans and other waterways each year — with zero consequences. It’s time Congress stopped this plastic pollution, which harms marine animals and is impossible to clean up.

Sign the petition today: https://bit.ly/3s3BBNG

No Single-Use Plastics in Our National Parks!

Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Mike Quigley introduced the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act. If passed, the bill would phase out the sale and distribution of single-use plastic products — including plastic beverage bottles, plastic bags, plastic foodware, and plastic foam items — across all national parks. The National Park Service would have 180 days to establish the guidelines for a program, and then each regional director would implement the plan for parks in their region, following that national blueprint.  

Call your members of Congress and ask them to support this bill.


On World Oceans Day, June 8th, 2022, the Biden administration announced a series of actions it would be taking to protect our oceans. Among them was an announcement that the Dept. of Interior will initiate a phaseout of single-use plastics in national parks and other public lands, which would reduce the procurement, sale, and distribution of single-use plastic products and packaging in 423 national parks, including 88 ocean and coastal parks. Read more here.

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