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US Senator Udall Introduces Legislation to Prevent Corporations from Dumping Plastic Pellets Into the Oceans and Other Waterways

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Current law allows plastic producers and shippers to discharge trillions of small plastic pellets – “nurdles” – directly into waters without any consequences, with toxic impacts on public health and wildlife

CONTACT:

Sen. Udall’s Office: Ned Adriance

202.228.6870 | news@tomudall.senate.gov

Break Free From Plastic Movement: Brett Nadrich

929.269.4480 | brett@breakfreefromplastic.org

 

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act to prohibit the discharge and pollution of pre-production plastic pellets. Pre-production plastic pellets, tiny granules of plastic less than 5 millimeters in size, are the building blocks of virtually all plastic products. Sometimes called “nurdles,” they are produced by major petrochemical companies from fossil fuels and then shipped to thousands of plastic processing plants that melt, mold and turn them into plastic products, such as plastic bags, bottles, utensils, and more.

Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) are the authors of the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, comprehensive legislation to require big corporations to take responsibility for the plastic waste they produce.

A 2016 report by Eunomia, a global consulting firm based in England, estimated that 230,000 tons of pellets pollute the marine environment each year. About 22,000 pellets are found in a single pound, meaning trillions of pellets are scattered into the environment every year. Like other plastic products, pellets take decades to break down and are often mistaken for fish eggs or other food by sea life and birds and can lead to malnourishment and death.

“The plastic pollution crisis rears its ugly head at every step of the plastic supply chain, starting with small plastic manufacturing pellets infiltrating our waterways, parks and oceans,” said Udall, author of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. “Trillions of plastic pellets leak into our environment from lax plastic producers and shippers, and the problem is only getting worse as big oil corporations ramp up their investment in plastic as their path to future profit. It’s time to end the avalanche of plastic pellets damaging wildlife and the livelihoods of entire American communities that depend on healthy rivers, streams and beaches. We can put simple solutions into action today to prevent plastic pellets from continuing to pollute and damage our health—we have no more time to waste.”

The risks of discharging these plastic pellets are enormous and pollution attributed to them has been documented for several decades with little to no enforcement against these spills. In 2019, Formosa Plastic agreed to spend $50 million on local environmental clean-up projects in Texas to address decades of spills – the largest settlement ever in a citizen clean-water-suit. Formosa also agreed to be held to a zero-discharge standard for plastic pellets.

In South Carolina, two citizens groups filed a pellet case in March against Frontier Logistics, a major shipper of resin pellets, for a major spill in Charleston Harbor in 2019 along with smaller spills. Just last month, a cargo ship on the Mississippi River in New Orleans was involved in a major pellet spill, further complicated by confusion over which federal or state agency is responsible for responding. Far more often, however pellets leak from negligent or lax control at industrial and transportation sites due to a failure of federal or state oversight officials to enforce pellet practices and loose industry self-policing. Citizen lawsuits have been necessary because federal and state authorities have failed to act.

A coalition of 280 environmental, public health and community groups has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor and prevent pellet pollution, including implementing a zero-discharge standard for pellets.

The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act requires the EPA to finalize a rule within 60 days to:

- Prohibit the discharge of plastic pellets or other pre-production plastic materials from facilities and sources that make, use, package, or transport those materials; and;

- Update all existing permits and standards of performance to reflect those prohibitions.

The full text of this legislation can be found here. Learn more about the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act here.

“We keep seeing more and more evidence of plastic particles finding their way into our rivers, lakes and oceans, posing risks to sea life and, potentially, to our health,” said Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “This measure would be a meaningful step forward to reduce that harmful pollution. It’s long overdue and if the industry wants to be a constructive partner it should join with us in supporting it.”

“Plastic pellets are an uncontrolled scourge that fouls waterways and harms wildlife. This important legislation holds EPA to account to stem the tide of this pervasive and preventable pollutant,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trillions of plastic pellets are released into our oceans every year and plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. We need to hold polluters accountable for the irreparable damage they’re doing to our oceans.”

“Right now, the only thing stopping plastics manufacturers from discharging hundreds of thousands of metric tons of plastic pellets into our waterways are their voluntary commitments, and that just isn’t good enough,” said Doug Cress, vice president for conservation at Ocean Conservancy. “Recently published research confirms that voluntary commitments have fallen far short of what we need to do to tackle the ocean plastics crisis. Regulating plastic pellet discharge – just as we regulate dumping of other pollutants – should not be up for debate, especially when the ocean plastics crisis is so dire.”

“We applaud Senator Udall for introducing the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act, which would support critically important efforts to prevent plastic pollution from harming people and the environment,” said Roberta Elias, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at World Wildlife Fund US. “Scientists are increasingly concerned about the ongoing discharge of plastic into nature and its impacts on ecosystems and communities. The provisions in this legislation are needed to better protect public health and to shift incentives and funding schemes away from those that favor virgin plastic production and use toward those that minimize waste and encourage reliance on recycled content.”

 

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Move to ban Single Use Plastic in Sri Lanka

The Central Environmental Authority has submitted a proposal to the cabinet to ban the use of Sachet packets containing shampoo and hair gel, plastic drinking straws and plastic water bottles from 2021.

In this proposal, the CEA drew special attention to products that were causing enormous Environmental harm. Items such as Sachets used for Shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, washing powder, fabric softener, toothpaste, plastic bottles (PET Bottles), and lids used in the water and soft drink/beverage Industry; and packaging used in biscuit manufacturing are a few. the utilization of soft drinks in plastic bottles would be managed under the proposition as an initial step, and in addition potential choices for plastic cutlery utilized for yogurt, frozen yogurt, and in the food takeaway division as well as Plastic clips used in the bundling of shirts also will be taken into consideration.

This decision was finally made after many Organizations have been advocating for the ban on Single-use plastic. The Centre for Environmental Justice has been at the forefront in the fight to ban Single-use plastic in the country & has raised awareness on several occasions. In 2019 the Centre for Environmental Justice wrote a letter to the Hon. President of Sri Lanka to Ban the use of single-use plastic. In the case filed by the Centre for Environmental Justice against the Illegal Sand filling in the Mount Lavinia beach that took place early this year against the Coast Conservation Authority, The Marine Environmental Protection Authority & the Central Environmental Authority CEJ requested the ban of Single-use plastic yet again.

The use of plastic has been a major Environmental concern since the 20th century due to the low composite rate. Many countries have tried to eradicate the use of plastic due to the major environmental hazard that it has caused. Many Oceans have been polluted & infested with plastic causing drastic Environmental impacts.

The Centre for Environmental Justice along with the Friends of the Earth International & the break free from plastic campaign conducted numerous brand Audits on the major plastic polluters in Sri Lanka. The number one plastic polluter was Elephant House with brands such as Coca Cola & Unilever following closely behind. There were quite a number of unnamed brands that were found to be polluting the environment during these brand Audits too.

‘’The Centre for Environmental Justice warmly welcomes this Initial step taken to ban the use of certain single-use plastics & urges that the way forward is to find Eco-friendly alternatives that will benefit not only mankind but each and every living being on Earth.’’

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Green Groups demand ADB to drop WTE incineration from their Energy Portfolio

Green groups belonging to No Burn Pilipinas demand Asian Development Bank (ADB)  to stop funding waste-to-energy incineration projects especially in Developing Member Countries like the Philippines. In its statement, NBP urges ADB to refrain from investing in incinerators as energy development and waste management strategies that systematically fail to take a “do no harm”, “precautionary” approach, prioritize “climate-resilience” investment, or meet other basic principles outlined in ADB’s own social and environmental safeguard standards. The ADB recently released its sector-wide report on Energy Policy and Program from 2009 to 2019 based on the evaluation conducted by the Independent Evaluation Department (IED). The groups call on ADB to reconsider recommendations from the IED, particularly those that include waste-to-energy incineration as part of the circular economy and that of the renewable energy mix.  “Waste-to-energy incineration should not be associated with climate solutions or efforts toward a circular economy because this “end-of-pipe” approach produces hazardous residue streams, blocks the implementation of Zero Waste strategies (e.g. product redesign, sorting at source, composting), imposes long-term financial burdens on local governments, and perpetuates the linear economic model of extraction, production, consumption, and disposal,” says Glenn Ymata of No Burn Pilipinas. WTE Incineration has No Place in the Circular Economy In the European Union (EU)'s latest Taxonomy Report, waste-to-energy incineration has been excluded from the list of economic activities that are considered as “sustainable finance.” This list of sustainable finance activities refer to those that can contribute to climate change mitigation without significantly impacting environmental objectives such as transition to a circular economy, waste prevention and recycling. One principle of a circular economy model is designing waste out of local and national systems.  By continuing to fund waste-to-energy projects, ADB is preventing developing member-countries from transitioning to an authentic circular economy, which they claim to promote in the region. Projects involving the burning of waste are reinforcing dependencies on finite resources, and upholding unsustainable consumption because of its reliance on generated waste for its operations.  WTE Incineration is not a Climate Solution  Incinerators emit significant quantities of direct greenhouse gases, and are large sources of indirect greenhouse gases. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal-fired, natural-gas-fired or oil-fired power plants.  Zero Waste Europe cites the high levels of carbon intensity produced in waste-to-energy incineration, which is 296 g CO2eq per kWh. This means that the carbon intensity of energy produced through waste incineration (580g CO2eq/kWh) is already about two-times greater than the current EU average electricity grid carbon intensity. Carbon intensity refers to the amount of CO2 emissions equivalent per unit of electricity generated or per unit of output. Under electricity generation, the EU Taxonomy requires activities to produce less than 100g CO2/kWh. A 2015 Eunomia study found that “[t]he management of waste as residual waste makes a net contribution to the climate change balance” and that “[t]here is not that much difference between the landfill and incineration scenarios.” WTE incineration is No Better Than Coal  WTE incinerators are also fossil-fuel based because plastic waste, which comprise a significant fraction of municipal discards, are largely used as feedstock. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) guidelines, when the CO2 emitted is of fossil origin, it is counted as a net anthropogenic emission of CO2 to the atmosphere. Thus, the emission from waste-to-energy incineration is no different from that of coal-fired power plants. It is actually worse. The incineration of 1 metric ton (Mt) of municipal waste in municipal-level incinerators is associated with the production/release of about 0.7 to 1.2 Mt of CO2. The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) estimates that about 2.9 Mt of CO2 is released into the atmosphere when 1 Mt of plastic packaging is incinerated. WTE incinerators also exceed coal power plants in terms of toxic and poisonous fumes produced. Burning trash in incinerators releases various types of emissions including lead, mercury, dioxins and furans, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, acidic gases (i.e., SOx, HCl), metals (cadmium, lead, mercury, chromium, arsenic, and beryllium), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and brominated polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS). Direct exposure to such toxins risks the health of facility workers and residents in nearby communities while indirect exposure, through the food chain, poses global risks.   WTE displaces people, jobs and livelihoods Like any other power plant projects, waste-to-energy incineration plants have the tendency to displace people from their communities where the facility will be constructed. Further, as WTEs assume the role of waste management, tens of thousands of households relying on waste picking and recycling will lose their jobs and livelihoods. On average, informal workers account for approximately 0.6% of the population. This translates to around 648,000 Filipinos that depend their livelihood on the waste management sector based on the latest estimate of the country’s population of 108 million. Incinerators burn and destroy finite resources that ought to be recycled and brought back to a productive economy. In developing countries like the Philippines, other informal waste workers depend on materials recovery and recycling for their livelihood or income, and in doing so provide unrecognized services for reduction and recycling. Investing in community-centered recycling and reduction efforts will improve the quality of the livelihoods of these workers. In contrast, incinerators destroy livelihoods by extinguishing recyclable and recoverable materials. Finally, allowing waste incineration will not help in the implementation of the National Framework Plan for the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management approved through NSWMC Resolution No. 47 which says that the Informal Waste Sector (IWS) such as waste pickers should be mainstreamed in solid waste management.   Recommendations to ADB The groups advised the Asian Development Bank to: 1) revise its Energy Policy to eliminate WTE incinerators from the list of renewable energy options to be financed and recommended; and 2) explicitly promote Zero Waste solutions for waste management concerns in borrowing member countries as well as energy solutions that do not rely on the incineration of waste. # # # For more information, please contact: Glenn Ymata, No Burn Pilipinas Campaigner, +63 9178377625 Geri Matthew Carretero, BFFP PH Communications Officer, +63 9176216901 ____________________________________________________________________________ About No Burn Pilipinas (NBP) – No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of environmental, justice, climate, rights and health groups who are opposed to waste incineration, including thermal waste-to-energy, and are working to promote the Zero Waste approach to resource management. www.facebook.com/noburnpilipinas About BFFP Philippines Project– The #breakfreefromplastic Philippines project is a collaboration of #breakfreefromplastic members EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA Asia Pacific, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia and Mother Earth Foundation working towards a future free from plastic pollution.  

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Faith-based groups, academic institutions, and civil society organizations express alarm over waste to energy incineration proposal

Faith-based groups, academic institutions and other civil society organizations from all over the country expressed their concerns about the government’s plan to allow waste incineration as a solution to manage our garbage problem. During the virtual conference on Wednesday organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM-Pilipinas) and partner organizations, talked about the waste-to-energy law being pushed in Congress and asked for widespread education about the issue. “Waste-to-energy incineration poses tremendous threat to ecological integrity because it weakens the ability of our ecosystem to support life. WTE is just a euphemism to waste incineration that produces climate relevant emissions and dangerous chemicals including dioxins and furans,” said Glenn Ymata of No Burn Pilipinas. “The problem of waste is well accounted for in the Laudato Si, the encyclical letter of Pope Francis. Our concerted efforts should focus on preservation and conservation not on destroying things.In short, addressing the throw-away Culture,”said Fr. John Leydon, Chairman of GCCM-Pilipinas. At the end of the virtual gathering, member organizations, community partners and allies of GCCM Pilipinas call for a wider effort on public information drive regarding the Waste to Energy from the perspective of papal encyclical Laudato Si.   ### To watch the webinar, please visit: https://bit.ly/3mapnyt  For more information, please contact: John Din 09178624008 GCCM Pilipinas Secretariat Geri Matthew Carretero 09176216901 Break Free From Plastic Philippines ____________________________________________________________________________________ About GCCM-Pilipinas– GCCM is a global, grass-roots movement of Catholics committed to living out the message of Laudato Si': On the Care of Our Common Home. About No Burn Pilipinas (NBP) – No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of environmental, justice, climate, rights and health groups who are opposed to waste incineration, including thermal waste-to-energy, and are working to promote the Zero Waste approach to resource management.  www.facebook.com/noburnpilipinas About BFFP Philippines Project–  The #breakfreefromplastic Philippines project is a collaboration of #breakfreefromplastic members EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA Asia Pacific, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia and Mother Earth Foundation working towards a future free from plastic pollution.

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Environmental groups tell Gatchalian: Quit pushing legalization of waste incineration

Green group warns vs Gatchalian’s Waste-To-Energy incineration proposal; Says move will only benefit the plastics industry and waste management companies

Groups belonging to the No Burn Pilipinas alliance today warned against the proposal by Sen, Gatchalian to push incineration under the guise of waste-to-energy projects to deal with the country's burgeoning waste problems, stressing that apart from worsening toxic pollution, the proposal will only benefit the plastics industry and foreign waste management companies. Gatchalian said that poor implementation of Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) is to blame for what he is calling “garbage crisis” citing a DENR report that only 30 percent of barangays actually segregate their collected waste properly, with 31 percent who have access to MRFs, and that 22 percent of the 1,634 cities and municipalities nationwide could be accommodated by 164 sanitary landfills across the country. “We believe that Sen. Gatchalian is making these statements to condition the minds of the public to accept his proposal of allowing waste incineration in the country,” said Glenn Ymata of No Burn Pilipinas.  Gatchalian is the principal author of Waste-to-Energy bill (SB 1789) in the senate.  Once the proposed legislation is approved, burning of waste through the incineration process becomes legal, one thing that the Clean Air Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act prohibit. “Sen. Gatchalian’s proposal for waste incineration will only turn the situation from bad to worse,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation.  “For every four trucks of waste incinerated, at least one truck of ash residues is produced that needs to be disposed of in landfills as well. Ashes from burnt materials are more difficult to manage than ordinary garbage because these residues contain contaminants which are dangerous to human health and the environment, hence we will need more engineered sanitary landfills for the ash from the WTE incinerators and this is a big added cost to our waste management,” she added.  "It needs to be pointed out that Senator Gatchalian appropriately identified the problem: the huge volume of both plastics and organic waste in our waste stream - and these are what he needs to pay keen attention to.  Instead of championing false solutions like waste-to-energy incinerators, perhaps he can champion a bill that quickly phases out single-use and other disposable plastic products, and a bill that promotes the development of environment-friendly systems that divert organic wastes from landfills and towards sustainable technologies like anaerobic digestion," said Paeng Lopez of Healthcare Without Harm-Asia. Gatchalian’s report is misleading.  While the projection of 16.6 million metric tons of waste may be true the volume should not fill up 99 Philippine Sports Arena if RA 9003 is properly implemented. 52% or 8.6 million metric tons can be composted, 28% or 4.6 million tons are being recycled, and only 18% or 3 million metric tons would have left for disposal in the landfills. The remaining 0.6 million or 600,000 tons are special waste. The waste characterization of the Philippines remains the same for the volume or weight of waste generated. The real problem is that LGUs are not getting the much-needed support for waste management such as financial and technical assistance. If we examine the composition of our waste, at least half or 52% are biodegradable that can be converted into fertilizer which then can be used to improve productivity of the country’s agriculture sector. This was pointed out by Sen. Cynthia Villar when she interpellated Gatchalian’s privilege speech at the senate last week.  Another 28% are recyclables that provide jobs and livelihoods especially to thousands of waste pickers. Only 2% are special wastes that require other methods for management and disposal. This leaves 18% residual waste that should only go to sanitary landfills per RA 9003. Of that, 10.55% or 2.2 million metric tons are mismanaged problematic plastic waste.  “If only the National Solid Waste Management Commission and DENR did their job in identifying non-environmentally accepted products (NEAP) like single use plastics, our residual waste can be reduced significantly to 8% or measly 1.67 million metric tons,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition. “Should the Gatchalian proposal become law, the only real winners would be foreign waste management companies, the plastics industry and the corporations who profit from the continuing use and proliferation of sachets and other throwaway plastics. Plastics are the ideal feedstock for these waste-to-energy plants, and they provide a convenient escape hatch for plastic polluters to evade their responsibility for dealing with the pollution associated with their products,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic.  “The losers on the other hand, will be local governments, taxpayers, local communities, recyclers, informal waste collectors and the environment.” he added. The group also issued an open invitation to legislators to visit cities, municipalities and barangays in the country that are successfully practicing zero-waste programs in accordance with RA 9003, instead of flying abroad to participate in junkets organized by incinerator pushers, and which are clearly intended to promote a polluting technology. ### For more information, please contact: Glenn Ymata, No Burn Pilipinas Campaigner, +63 9178377625 ____________________________________________________________________________ About No Burn Pilipinas (NBP) – No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of environmental, justice, climate, rights and health groups who are opposed to waste incineration, including thermal waste-to-energy, and are working to promote the Zero Waste approach to resource management. www.facebook.com/noburnpilipinas  About BFFP Philippines Project–  The #breakfreefromplastic Philippines project is a collaboration of #breakfreefromplastic members EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA Asia Pacific, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia and Mother Earth Foundation working towards a future free from plastic pollution.

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Environment group hits proposed Waste-To-Energy Bill, criticizes legalization of garbage incineration in the guise of waste-to-energy plants

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_code _builder_version="3.0.98"]<iframe width="560" height="515" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bByO1ZLtYJ0" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>[/et_pb_code][et_pb_text] No Burn Pilipinas together with environment groups hit Sen. Gatchalian for being hell-bent on pursuing waste incineration in the Philippines despite opposition from various civil society organizations, academe and health institutions due to a number of concerns as experienced in other countries. The senator is expected to sponsor a substitute bill on waste-to-energy in today’s regular session of the senate.  “We are asking the senator the big question WHY is he still insisting his bill would allow waste incineration? During public hearings and technical working group meetings, we have already presented our case why incineration is bad for our environment, health and climate.” said Glenn Ymata, No Burn Campaigner of Break Free From Plastic Philippines in a statement. “Moreover, waste-to-energy incineration projects will also only drain the coffers of the local government units because of lopsided contracts with WTE operators. Soon these LGUs will go bankrupt.” added Ymata. The groups say that Sen. Gatchalian is being misled to believe that waste-to-energy is safe and can provide a significant contribution to the country's energy mix. With the 22 WTE projects being proposed across the country, the total combined output is just 300 MW. To sustain these WTEs, it will require around 15,000 metric tons per day as feedstock which will eventually produce an estimated 3.67 million metric tons of CO2 emission annually. Not to mention the dioxins and furans that these incinerators will release into our environment. These are the most harmful persistent organic pollutants known scientifically and could last in our surrounding for up to a hundred of years.  Once the bill is approved, the real winners are the plastics industry and big waste companies who will be absolved of their culpability of plastic pollution. It will enrich them more from the profit they will gain at the expense of taxpayers. Vulnerable communities will also be more susceptible to the impacts of waste incineration on health, climate and the environment.  Finally, the government is being asked to provide subsidies and incentives in billions of pesos just to build and sustain these WTE facilities. “In times of crisis that we are currently experiencing due to Covid-19, isn’t it more proper to be prudent in public spending and prioritize public health instead of burning our trash and people’s money?” ended Ymata. # # # For more info, a video statement is also available at: https://bit.ly/3gyl23Z Contact: Geri Matthew Carretero, BFFP Philippines Communications Officer, +63 917 6216901 About No Burn Pilipinas – No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of environmental, justice, climate, rights and health groups who are opposed to waste incineration, including thermal waste-to-energy, and are working to promote the Zero Waste approach to resource management. www.facebook.com/noburnpilipinas  [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

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University of California system moves to scrap single-use plastics

Following a student-run campaign, the UC’s commitment will significantly reduce plastic pollution in California

CONTACT:
  • For more information:
  • For interviews:
    • Valerie Nguyen, Chairperson for CALPIRG Students at UC Berkeley, valn@berkeley.edu, (408) 410-0689
  OAKLAND -- University of California campuses will start phasing-out single-use plastics, paving the way for campuses free of non-essential plastics by 2030, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) and CALPIRG Students announced jointly today. The new policy will transition UC away from plastic bags in retail and dining locations and eventually eliminate single-use plastic food service items and plastic bottles, helping to reduce the production of plastic pollution in California and prevent microplastics from contaminating waterways.   “Students are more conscious than ever of the consumption of plastic and its negative impact on our environment and public health, so we're thrilled that our institution, which has so much purchasing power in California, is taking major steps to eliminate single-use plastic,” said UC Berkeley graduate Nicole Haynes, CALPIRG’s statewide Plastic-Free Seas coordinator.  CALPIRG Students worked closely with the UCOP in crafting the new policy. The Plastic-Free Seas Campaign collected more than 12,000 student signatures over the past year and sponsored resolutions with the UC Student Association and local student government on several UC campuses to support phasing out non-essential, single-use plastic on all UC campuses. Given its significant purchasing power and size, this major initiative underscores UC as an even more impactful environmental leader, advocating for less plastic pollution and fewer landfills. UC researchers have shown that plastics can have a significant impact on the environment as only a small fraction of such products, especially single-use items, are recycled. “The persistent environmental damage wrought by plastics on the environment and human health is well-known,” said David Phillips, associate vice president for UC’s Department of Energy and Sustainability. “With changes in the recycling industry that make it more difficult to reuse plastic products, the clear solution is to phase out single-use plastics so they never enter our waste stream in the first place.”  UC researchers have shown that plastics can have a significant impact on the environment as only a small fraction of such products, especially single-use items, are recycled.  The timetable for the policy is as follows:

◾ Plastic bags in retail and food service establishments will be eliminated by Jan. 1, 2021.

◾ Single-use plastic dining accessories (e.g., straws, utensils, stirrers) will be eliminated and replaced with local compostable or reusable alternatives by July 1, 2021, with exceptions for accessibility needs.

◾ Dine-in facilities will provide reusable food service items (e.g., plates, cups, clamshell containers) for food consumed on site by July 1, 2022, and to-go facilities will provide reusable or locally compostable alternatives.

◾ Campus food service operations will phase out the purchase, sale and distribution of single-use plastic beverage bottles by January 1, 2023. To support this change, UC locations are encouraged to install water refill stations.

◾ In addition, the policy directs campuses to make plans to get their campuses to be free of non-essential plastics by 2030.

This system-wide policy allows campuses to decide how to tailor the implementation of these changes to the location-based needs of their food establishments and retail services. As examples, UC Berkeley has already enacted a wider-reaching local policy to eliminate all non-essential, single-use plastics by 2030 while UCLA is finalizing a policy with earlier implementation. CALPIRG Student leaders worked with both UC Berkeley and UCLA on their policies. The California Legislature is currently considering legislation that would similarly tackle California’s plastic pollution problem. The Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (SB 54 and AB 1080) would reduce plastic waste in California by 75% and require all single-use plastics to be recyclable or compostable by 2032.  “Today’s announcement by the UCs to phase out disposable plastics is a testament to both California’s leadership and the tenacity of these students who continue to prove that not only is progress possible, but we have a duty to keep pushing for the change we want to see,” said Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica. “SB 54 and AB 1080 will tackle plastic statewide, finally requiring businesses to do their part and take responsibility for the plastic packaging they are placing on the market – so we can to turn the tide and reduce the amount of plastic waste piling up in our communities.” Roughly two-thirds of all plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and remains there in some form. As these items fragment into smaller particles, known as microplastics, they concentrate toxic chemicals and increasingly contaminate our food and drinking water sources. Microplastics have been found in tap water, bottled water, table salt, fish, shellfish, and agricultural soils. Experts agree that upstream reduction of packaging and packaging waste is the most effective, and least expensive way to protect human, wildlife, and environmental health. “The new policy from the UCs is a huge achievement for the environment, and now we are calling on the Legislature to follow suit by passing the Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act,” finished Haynes. “Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years.” For more information on UC’s sustainability efforts, go here.

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Toxic Texas: Responding to the Plastics Plant Fire in Grand Prairie

Photo Credit: Kathy Kamo

August 20, 2020 A massive fire at the Poly-America Facility in Grand Prairie, Texas continues to smolder more than 36 hours after causing a regional emergency. Community advocates and Break Free From Plastic movement leaders call for the closure of the facility and all similarly-dangerous plastic production  facilities. Thick pillars of black smoke from the burning of toxic polyethylene products led officials to urge anyone with respiratory issues to remain indoors while firefighters sprayed gallons of foam containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS chemicals) to contain the blaze. This is the second inferno in recent memory at the Poly-America Facility. “It was about 32 years ago, same exact scenario. I don't remember what started it that night. We had bad storms as well, same as this one,” said Bill Murphy, Assistant Chief of Operations with the Grand Prairie Fire Department. “It's going to be at least a two-day operation out here before it's completely extinguished." The only way to stop the burning of these toxic chemicals is to stop producing them in the first place. In recognition of the urgent need for systemic change, local leaders and Break Free From Plastic movement members offer the following statements responding to the Policy-America fire and pointing the way forward to a world free from plastic. ###   Last night a fire broke out at a plastics facility, and no one had any idea. It’s frustrating feeling trapped, surviving and watching news updates, all compounded by a global pandemic. Our state leads the nation in coronavirus cases. We’re trying to be safe through a pandemic only to know that now a fire is blazing outside. Firefighting foam has leached into North Cottonwood creek -- how is that controlled? What will the aftermath look like? What is the danger present in our bodies, air and local environment? Poly-America is devastating our most vulnerable communities during a global pandemic. The air can’t be safe. We are not safe. Where do you go when you cannot go home? - Ramon Mejía, Anti-Militarism National Organizer, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) “This is a dramatic and frightening example of why we must reduce our dependence on toxic plastics. The plastics industry has targeted Texas to expand dangerous facilities like this one to produce more unsustainable single-use products. Incidents like this remind us that we must transition to a cleaner economy and protect our health and environment from plastics. Our hearts go out to the residents of Grand Prairie and neighboring cities who live near this fire. Please keep your families safe and stay tuned for updates from public officials. We wish you and our first responders the best.” - Corey Troiani, Senior Strategy Director, Texas Campaign for the Environment The toxic plumes unleashed by the fire at the Poly-America plant are a devastating reminder that plastics are fossil fuels in another form, and that they pose threats to human health, the environment, and the climate all along their lifecycle, from production through to disposal. It's the people living in fenceline communities--many of them Black, indigenous and people of color--who bear the greatest risks from the plastic industry and the fossil fuels that feed it, due to daily exposure to pollution as well as the ever-present threat of accidents like this. - Nikki Reisch, Director of the Climate & Energy Program, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) Whether it’s burned in an incinerator after hauling trash just one time or by accident at a production facility, the lifecycle of a plastic bag is toxic from beginning to end. Communities whose lungs are already ravaged by a lifetime of air pollution are now more vulnerable to COVID. It is past time to ban these single-use plastics and shift towards equitable and healthy solutions for a circular, zero waste world. - Denise Patel, U.S. Program Director, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)   Press contact Brett Nadrich, US Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic +1 (929) 269-4480, brett@breakfreefromplastic.org