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Legislation to curb plastic pollution gains momentum; passes environmental conservation committee and secures majority of assembly and senate support

23 Feb 2024

The New York State Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee voted to pass the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act (A5322B Glick / S4246B Harckham) — just days after the bill secured a majority of co-sponsors in both the assembly (76 cosponsors) and the Senate (34 cosponsors). Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator, issued the following statement:

“While taxpayers pay hundreds of millions to export waste and suffer from increasing negative health impacts thanks to microplastics, wealthy fossil fuel companies are rapidly increasing plastic production — and plastic pollution — to pad their bottom lines. We can’t recycle our way out of the problem since most plastics are not recyclable — less than 6% of plastics in the U.S. are actually recycled. We thank the majority of New York state lawmakers who are now cosponsors of the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, and the New York State Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee for bringing New York state one step closer to doing something about our growing plastic pollution problem. Now we need this bill to come to the floor in both houses for a vote. Plastic polluters should be on the hook for the mess they’re making.”


According to polling from Oceana, nearly nine in 10 New Yorkers support policies that reduce single-use plastic. The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act (S4246B Harckham/A5322AB Glick) will do just that by transforming the way our goods are packaged. It will dramatically reduce waste and ease the burden on taxpayers by making companies, not consumers, cover the cost of managing packaging. The bill will:

Reduce plastic packaging by 50% incrementally over 12 years;After 12 years, all plastic (and glass, paper, and metal, which typically already meet this standard) must be at least 70% recyclable;Prohibit the 15 worst toxic chemicals in packaging, including vinyl chloride, PFAS, and heavy metals;Not allow so-called chemical recycling to be considered real recycling;Establish a modest fee on packaging paid by packaging producers, with new revenue going to local taxpayers; and Establish a new Office of Inspector General to ensure proper compliance.

The City of New York has officially backed the bill (see attached), and more than 200 organizations and businesses — including Beyond Plastics, Environmental Advocates, NYPIRG, Earthjustice, Blueland, and DeliverZero Inc. — issued a memo of support (see attached). They write, “This bill would save tax dollars and position New York as a global leader in reducing plastic pollution.”

Under the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, not only would it cost less for taxpayers to get rid of waste, but local governments would also receive new revenue from packaging fees paid by producers. This would provide substantial revenue — New York City alone would receive at least $150 million to support recycling and waste disposal costs.

Plastics and Climate

Plastic production is already out of control and is expected to double in the next 20 years. As more of our energy comes from renewable sources, fossil fuel companies like Shell and Exxon are seeking to recoup falling profits by increasing plastics production and canceling out greenhouse gas reductions. In fact, half of all plastic in Earth’s history was produced in the last 20 years — the plastic we’re seeing now in our air, water, food, and bodies didn’t even exist before 2000.

Plastic is made out of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals. Most plastics are made out of “ethane,” a byproduct of fracking. In 2020, plastic’s climate impacts amounted to the equivalent of nearly 49 million cars on the road, according to a conservative estimate by Material Research. And that’s not including the carbon footprint associated with disposing of plastic.

Plastics and Health

Only about 6% of plastic in the United States actually gets recycled, and only 9% of all the plastic waste ever generated, globally, has been recycled! The rest ends up burned at incinerators, buried in landfills, or polluting rivers and the ocean — an estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean every year.

Plastic is being measured everywhere, and microplastics are entering our soil, food, water, and air. Scientists estimate people consume, on average, hundreds of thousands of microplastics per year, and these particles have been found in human placenta, breast milk, stool, blood, and lungs. Scientists are still researching how exactly this is affecting our health, but chemicals found in plastics have been associated with cancer, nervous system damage, hormone disruption and fertility issues.

In fact, new research continues to find that the microplastics problem is worse than previously thought: A new study from Columbia University found that bottled water can contain hundreds of thousands of plastic fragments.

Why Chemical Recycling Isn’t A Solution

Because our recycling system is so flawed, the plastic industry is now arming itself with a pseudo-solution: “chemical recycling,” or “advanced recycling.” This is a largely unproven process that uses high heat or chemicals to turn plastic waste into fossil fuels or feedstocks to produce new plastic products. It’s a dangerous distraction that’s allowing companies to exponentially increase the amount of plastic — and greenhouse gasses — they put into the world. Learn more from Beyond Plastics’s recent report, “Chemical Recycling: A Dangerous Deception.”

Note: This story has not been edited by The Polymerupdate Editorial team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.