WASHINGTON – 08 December 2020 -- The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), along with a coalition of more than 550 community and conservation organizations, today released its Presidential Plastics Action Plan, urging President-elect Joe Biden to take eight key executive actions to solve the plastic pollution crisis.
These include a moratorium on new plastic production facilities, using federal purchasing power to curb single- use plastics, tightening up regulation of the petrochemical industry, ending fossil fuel subsidies and protecting environmental justice communities from pollution. The plan responds to the plastic industry's aggressive expansion of facilities using the country's oversupply of fracked gas to make throwaway plastic that fills our oceans, landfills and landscapes. Petrochemical-plastic projects harm frontline communities with toxic air and water pollution and worsen the climate crisis and the impact of the pandemic.
"President-elect Biden can begin solving the plastic pollution crisis in his first days in office without any help from Congress," said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Implementing this historic plan would protect vulnerable frontline communities and marine life while addressing a key driver of climate change. It’s time to rein in the fossil fuel industry's insidious plans to keep fracking for plastic and polluting poor communities here and around the world."
The Presidential Plastics Action Plan includes detailed steps Biden can take as part of eight priority actions:
"There is nothing common-sense about increasing cancer rates, sterility, or developmental issues in poor communities of color just for plastic. I support the Presidential Plastics Action Plan because plastic is not worth the sacrifice," said Yvette Arellano with Fenceline Watch. "My state of Texas leads the country in rates of uninsured people yet is home to the largest petrochemical complex; more plastic will only benefit one of those. Instead let’s reinvest in healthcare, healthy jobs, education, and ending a global pandemic."
Today’s plan builds on the momentum of the Break Free From Plastic movement and the bill by the same name. The plan is endorsed by more than 550 groups, from national environmental organizations to small community groups fighting plastic pollution.
"We must fight for a just transition to a healthier and sustainable future. Our next generation's future depends on what we do today," said Frankie Orona with Society of Native Nations. "Human beings have taken more than what's been given back, which is why Mother Earth is now in dire need of help. We need to stop the plastic pollution and the toxic chemicals in the water, air, and land, in order to protect our children and all life that coexists on our planet."
"Plastic production and pollution impact public health, the environment, and climate and it has reached crisis levels around the world, with the United States as one of the biggest contributors. It is for this reason that Sen.Tom Udall, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and I introduced the comprehensive Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act this year, and will reintroduce it next year," said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47). "The Presidential Plastics Action Plan lays out how the incoming Biden Administration can lead on this plastic waste issue and enact real solutions like updating important regulations and greater cooperation with the international community. We are running out of time to deal with this crisis, but our bill and the Presidential Plastics Action Plan are important approaches to put us on the right track moving forward."
The plan dispels the industry-promoted myth that most plastic can be recycled, citing federal figures that only about 8% of plastic consumed in the United States is recycled. Plastic pollution accumulating in the oceans is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.
"Every day, the over abundance of plastic litters our streets, pollutes our streams, and poisons our oceans", said Christopher Chin, COARE's Executive Director. "It is literally everywhere: in the air that we breath, the water we drink, and in the food we eat. Plastic is a problem at ever stage of its lifecycle, and the overproduction of plastic is directly contributing to the climate and human health crises. We cannot recycle our way out of this problem, and the time for false solutions and rhetoric is over. We look to President-Elect Biden to commit the United States to actively supporting a new global treaty on plastic pollution, and to take immediate action to help put an end to Plastic Pollution."
"Surfrider Foundation normally approaches this problem through beach cleanups and proactively with the power of legislative proposals, but there’s untapped potential in the executive branch," said Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation’s legal director. "We’re calling upon this power today to solve the crisis of plastic pollution. Our ocean is dying a death of a thousand cuts, and we need a powerful, multifaceted approach to address it."
The plan calls for Biden to appoint a Plastic Pollution Czar to coordinate plastic reduction efforts across federal agencies and internationally. It also asks him to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new ways to measure and reduce plastic pollution and to update and better enforce its decades-old regulations for petrochemical plants that make plastic – something many groups behind this plan also demanded of the EPA in a pair of legal petitions last year.
"Rejoining the international community means not only rejoining Paris, it means joining the global fight against plastics as a partner, not an obstruction," said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law. "President-elect Biden should commit the United States to actively support a new global treaty on plastic pollution; use U.S. trade power to support real development, not plastic polluters; and move quickly to reverse U.S. subsidies and export policies that are accelerating the plastic crisis globally."
Today’s plan is endorsed by actress and activist Rosario Dawson, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and frontline activists like Sharon Lavigne, who is leading the fight against Formosa’s plan to build one of the world’s biggest plastic plants in St. James Parish, Louisiana—a historically Black community in the region known as "Cancer Alley" (due to the health impacts of the petrochemical facilities in the area), which has recorded some of the highest death rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If the Formosa Plastics complex is built, it would be a death sentence for St. James Parish. We already have so many people dying here, mostly from cancer, and others with terrible reproductive issues. If the petrochemical buildout continues, we won't be able to breathe the air and we will die," said Sharon Lavigne, Founder and President of RISE St. James. "We are asking the Biden Administration to consider the lives of the people here in St. James Parish and take action to protect us."
"Plastics and the fossil fuels they’re created from are contributing to a global catastrophe. The more than 250,000 responsible businesses we represent stand ready to work with the Biden administration to reduce our reliance on plastic," said David Levine, president and cofounder of the American Sustainable Business Council. "Together we can overhaul how we design, manufacture and distribute our products, transitioning from single- use plastics to a circular, sustainable economy that creates new business opportunities and more jobs."
Activists across the country also recorded segments for a new video urging Biden to adopt the plan and become the first #PlasticFreePresident. They also projected messages calling out plastic pollution on significant buildings in San Francisco, New Orleans and other cities. The video and images are available for media use here.
"Everyone in America—regardless of the color of their skin, where they live, or how wealthy their community is —should be able to take a breath or pour a glass of water without ingesting dangerous chemicals and microscopic plastics," said Sen. Jeff Merkley. "Nobody wants to go to the beach and see mountains of single-use plastic waste. And plastic production is a major driver of pollution accelerating the climate crisis that has already claimed lives and livelihoods in every corner of our country. America was creative enough to invent a million uses for plastic, and now we have to use that creativity to clean up our act and design better alternatives. Our kids’ health and futures depend on America tackling this urgent problem."
Convening partners for the plan are: Azulita Project, Beyond Plastics, Break Free From Plastic, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Coalfield Justice, Center for International Environmental Law, The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education, Clean Air Council, Earthworks, Food and Water Watch, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Last Beach Clean Up, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and Wishtoyo Foundation.
"Plastic pollution is a crisis that affects our communities, our waterways, and even our bodies," Udall said. "We have a responsibility to act now to address this problem before future generations are burdened with the overwhelming health and social effects of plastic pollution."
Globally, the plastics industry already produces more than 335 million tons of plastic each year, and this volume continues to increase. Left unchecked, global plastic production is projected to triple by 2050.
"It is irresponsible for us to ignore this crisis which is choking our waterways and wildlife and impacting our environment and public health," said Lowenthal. "Our comprehensive and holistic legislation will create a more robust domestic recycling infrastructure, reduce our dependence on single-use plastics, and more meaningfully protect our communities from the negative impact of these products."
As a part of the Break Free From Plastic movement, COARE has worked to create and support smart legislation and sound and equitable policy. Through its "Enough with the plastic already!" campaign, COARE seeks to reduce the amount of oceanbound waste by helping people become more aware of how their habits affect the world around them.
About COARE The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education, Inc. (COARE) is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its purpose is to study our oceans and increase public awareness of the earth's marine environment through educational programs and outreach. COARE seeks to enlighten people, young and old, to the plight of the oceans, to change the way they think and act, and to encourage them to create positive and lasting change. For more information about COARE, visit https://www.coare.org.
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