Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment

Federal Actions to Address Marine Plastic Pollution: Reducing or Preventing Marine Plastic Pollution Through Source Controls and Life-cycle Management

Charoula Melliou, Divya Rao, Julia Stein

CEN_EMM_PUB-Federal Actions to Address Marine Plastic Pollution

Single-use plastics have infiltrated our daily diets—contaminating our drinking water and table salt—and have polluted our roads and waterways. Moreover, single-use plastics are created from oil and gas; the creation, slow breakdown, and incineration of plastics all contribute to climate change.

In 2015, Congress acknowledged that plastics were a problem affecting all Americans and acted by passing the Microbead-Free Waters Act. The Act addressed part of the problem, but the environmental and human health crisis created by single-use plastics litter and pollution has continued to grow.

Federal Actions to Address Marine Plastic Pollution provides recommendations for Congress to develop legislation that attacks the problem at its source by regulating single-use plastics at their point-of-contact with consumers. The report authors recommend that Congress implements a hybrid single-use bag ban/fee to regulate single-use plastic bags. For straws, EPS foam containers, and other single-use plastics, Congress should implement a straight ban. On top of the bans, Congress can consider shifting costs to manufacturers and retailers by creating an EPR program, which also incents industries to develop more sustainable products.