Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act Would Cut Plastic Pollution by 64 Billion Plastic Bottles Per Year
Contact: Sam Pearse | [email protected]
New data from Reloop, exposing the number of wasted beverage containers per country, reveals that passing the federal Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would see over 64 billion plastic beverage bottles recycled that are currently being burned, buried or leaked into the environment every year.
The figures come from a report What We Waste released today, showing that based on 2019 figures, the US currently wastes in excess of 74 billion plastic bottles every year, a number dramatically higher than any of the 93 countries assessed in the study (accounting for population). The report shows that wastage figures strongly correlate with two policies — the existence of deposit return systems for beverage containers and the market share of refillable beverage containers in the country.
Plastic bottles ending up in landfills, incinerators and the environment would be sharply reduced by passing the landmark Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (H.R. 2238, S.984) which was reintroduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) in 2021. Among various policies in the legislation is a provision for a national deposit return program for beverage containers which mandates a recycling rate of 90% by 2032. Deposit return systems have proven to dramatically reduce the number of beverage containers leaking into the environment, and the federal bill would build upon the ten US states with such laws currently recycling the majority of the US’ beverage containers.
Sam Pearse, Campaign Manager at The Story of Stuff Project, said:
“Data from beach clean ups repeatedly shows us that plastic bottles are one of the biggest sources of ocean-bound plastic. Deposit return systems — with strong targets like those set in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act can make deep inroads to plastic pollution, along with building the infrastructure for the reuse revolution we need.
The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act already has over one hundred co-sponsors in Congress, now we need executive leadership from President Biden on the legislation. Supporting the act can help him achieve his goals on the climate and plastic pollution while reducing the life-cycle impacts of plastics disproportionately born by communities of color.”
Elizabeth Balkan, Director of Reloop Americas, said:
“Cans and bottles, whether plastic or glass, are valuable resources, and every time those materials are not recycled or reused it increases the demand for virgin materials. Now the real scale of these resources wasted across the United States can be estimated, and the numbers are gargantuan: 140 billion containers a year, for an average of 426 per person. Even that startling number will be a clear underestimate, given the known limitations of this dataset.
“This wasteful approach means millions of tonnes of unnecessary climate emissions, substantial unnecessary cleanup costs for city, county and state governments, and ecological effects that will last decades. One worthwhile measure to reduce waste is at hand, though: a nationwide deposit on drinks cans and bottles, which forms part of legislative proposals already under consideration. This approach, used already in ten states and common in Europe, would reduce wasted cans and bottles here by 84%, and it is an option Congress should now be taking very seriously.”
Kirstie Pecci, Director of the Zero Waste Project and Senior Fellow at Conservation Law Foundation said:
“This bill is a win, win, win. Passing the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act means we can recycle bottles and cans instead of burning and burying them – and it won’t cost taxpayers a cent. We can get to work phasing out polluting, dangerous, and expensive incinerators, most of which are located in communities that have already borne more than their fair share of air pollution. Finally, deposit return systems create good, green, local jobs. What’s not to love about that?”
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- Sam Pearse, Campaign Manager, Story of Stuff Project | [email protected] | 415-419-7499
- Elizabeth Balkan, Americas Director, Reloop [email protected] | 646-492-0286
- Reloop’s What We Waste report can be found here
- The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act can be found here, including a number of comprehensive policy interventions addressing plastic pollution
The Story of Stuff Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit working to transform the way that we make, use, and throw away Stuff so that it is more sustainable, healthy, and just. www.storyofstuff.org