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With all that’s been happening at the federal level – including the Interior Department’s proposal to open up new offshore oil and gas leasing in U.S. waters, the Supreme Court undermining the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and the Senate’s sudden determination to push climate legislation forward – even dedicated news readers would be forgiven for missing something as obscure-sounding as “federal procurement.”

Feds to buy less plastic

However, since the federal government spends upwards of $650 billion on products and services each year, the buying decisions made can have a significant impact on U.S. waste. On July 6, the Biden administration directed the General Services Administration (GSA), which is the agency responsible for making government purchases, to move toward reducing single-use plastic when making those purchases.

Surfrider extends kudos to the Center for Biological Diversity for petitioning the GSA last year on this topic. A 60-day comment period is open until Sept. 6. Surfrider will submit comments focusing on the timeline, the need to focus on truly sustainable products (i.e., reusable/refillable) and priority items.

Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act

Surfrider and other supporters of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, reintroduced last year by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), continue to push for a Senate committee hearing.

This would follow the hearing held by the House’s Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change on June 30. That hearing, titled “No Time to Waste: Solutions for America's Broken Recycling System,” included several bills, including the BFFPPA and can be viewed here.

As we continue to advocate for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, we’re also working with partner advocacy organizations to support related legislation, such as the Senate’s Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act, introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and the House’s version, introduced by Representative Lowenthal. These bills would require theEPA to create regulations within 60 days that prohibit the discharge of plastic pellets into waterways, storm drains or sewers from facilities that “…make, use, package, or transport plastic pellets or other pre-production plastic materials.”

TAKE ACTION: Email your federal elected representatives and tell them to support the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act now!

Reducing Waste in National Parks Act

Efforts by Surfrider and plastic pollution coalition partners to pass the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act received a boost back in June when Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland directed the Department of the Interior (DOI) to reduce the sale and distribution of single-use plastic products and packaging with a goal of phasing out single-use plastic products within all national parks, monuments, sanctuaries, other federal lands and DOI offices.

Since that time, members of Congress, led by Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) have urged Secretary Haaland to end the use of single-use plastics in national parks more quickly than the current 10-year timeline. Similarly, environmental and environmental justice organizations, including Surfrider, are providing recommendations that would help shorten the timeline, prioritize reuse and refill systems, and raise our concerns about bioplastic alternatives as mentioned in the order.

TAKE ACTION #1: Businesses and organizations can sign on to a letter to Secretary Haaland asking for a faster phase-out of single-use plastics on public lands here.

TAKE ACTION #2: Individuals can email Congress asking their representatives to pass the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act here.

The EPA and Environmental Justice

Finally, two developments related to the EPA and environmental justice. First, the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management has developed a draft EJ Action Plan that includes a focus on its Recycling Infrastructure, and Recycling Education and Outreach grant programs, and Battery Recycling programs. Surfrider contributed comments during stakeholder outreach and will continue to advocate against the false “solutions” of chemical recycling, incineration and gasification.

In related news, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) submitted a letter from 35 members of Congress raising concerns over chemical recycling technologies that contribute to the climate crisis and perpetuate environmental injustice in vulnerable communities in response to the EPA’s consideration to remove existing Clean Air Act protections from chemical recycling processes.  

More information can be found on Senator Booker’s website, and the full text of the letter can be found here.

Get Involved!

In addition to taking the action steps above, be part of the movement on the ground by joining your local Surfrider chapter!

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SOURCES:

Surfrider Foundation: Feds Promise Progress on Plastic Pollution, Congress Pushes for More; August 8, 2022

GREENPEACE: Congress: Support the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021; March 25, 2021