Press Release

Gillibrand Announces Comprehensive Bicameral Plan To Protect New Yorkers From Growing Plastic Pollution Crisis

Mar 31, 2021

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined Senate and House Democrats to announce comprehensive legislation to protect New Yorkers and families across the country from the growing plastic pollution crisis. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is made up of a collection of ‘best practices’ laws that have already been successfully enacted at the state level, or by other countries battling plastic pollution, to address the plastic pollution crisis that poisons air, water and land, and disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income Americans.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would change the incentives of the plastic industry to reduce plastic production, increase recycling, and protect at-risk communities from the burden of toxic emissions from plastic waste. The legislation would shift the burden of cleanup to corporations that produce plastics, providing financial motivation to end burning and dumping; strengthening environmental justice protections; eliminating waste export loopholes; and expanding existing laws that have been proven to work on the state and local level.

“We must address the dangerous amount of plastic that is burned, buried, or dumped into our waterways. Rampant plastic pollution has already caused significant ecological damage to New York’s waterways, and has significantly harmed communities of color and low-income communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This comprehensive legislation will take major steps to strengthen environmental protections, expand successful state level legislation to combat plastic pollution —  like the historic phasing-out out of single-use plastics taking place in New York — and place the onus on large corporations to cover the costs of cleaning up plastic waste from their products. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this critical legislation as we tackle the growing environmental and public health crisis caused by plastic pollution.”

Americans widely support steps to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. Recent polling shows that two-thirds of Americans believe that businesses that produce or use plastics in their products should pay for collecting, sorting, and recycling plastics; 86% of Americans support requiring new plastic to contain at least some recycled material; and 80% of Americans support phasing out certain non-recyclable plastics altogether. 

Specifically, the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act would:

  • Require big corporations to take responsibility for their pollution by requiring producers of plastic products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs; 
  • Spur innovation and incentivize big corporations to make reusable products and items that can actually be recycled; 
  • Create a nationwide beverage container refund program, modeled after the successful program pioneered in Oregon;
  • Reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable;
  • Eliminate waste export loopholes by banning exports to countries who themselves re-export waste outside of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD);
  • Require the National Academy of Science to study and assess the direct and cumulative health, environmental, and economic impacts of plastic waste incinerators and other similar technology;
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products, while standardizing recycling and composting labeling; and 
  • Generate massive investments in U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure, while pressing pause on new plastic facilities until critical environment and health protections are put in place.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is endorsed by over 500 groups, including League of Conservation Voters, Center for International Environmental Law, Ocean Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Surfrider, Oceana, GreenLatinos, Society of Native Nations, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Environment America, 5 Gyres, Algulita, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, American Sustainable Business Council, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council, 350 Brooklyn, 350 NYC, Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF), AmPark Eco Core, Beyond Plastic, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Cafeteria Culture, Climate Crisis Policy, DDSao, DeliverZero, Green Ossining, Green Schools Alliance, It’s Easy Being Green, Invest With Purpose, Just Salad LLC, Nakworks, National Audubon Society,  Oceanic Global, Only One, plastic tides, Riverkeeper Inc, Save the Great South Bay, Sisters of St. Joseph Brentwood, Sixth Street Community Center, Wellness in the Schools, and Zero Waste NYC. 

A summary of the legislation can be found here

Full text of the legislation can be found here.  

A section-by-section summary of the legislation can be found here