Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), today, introduced legislation to prevent the discharge of plastic pellets into the environment during the manufacture or transport of the pellets or during the manufacture of plastic products from the pellets.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Congress Members Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Mike Quigley (Il-05).
The vast majority of plastic products begin life as small round pellets of virgin plastic about the size of a lentil bean. During transport and manufacture, large amounts wind up in waterways, storm drains, and sewers, and eventually, oceans and rivers. The pellets break down into tiny microplastics that have been found across the globe and have been found in marine and land animals as well as in humans. While exact amounts of the pellets that end up in the environment are unknown, some estimates suggest half of all microplastics might originally be from these pre-production pellets.
There are currently no federal rules that address plastic pellets specifically and most states have no meaningful regulations to prohibit the discharge of these pellets, with statehouses relying in most cases on the plastics industry to set standards for itself. The only national program related to plastic pellet discharge is completely voluntary and industry-led.
Congressman Lowenthal’s Plastic Pellet Free Water Act would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create regulations within 60 days that prohibit the discharge of plastic pellets into waterways, storm drains, or sewers from facilities that “…make, use, package, or transport plastic pellets or other pre-production plastic materials.”
“Recent scientific studies show that microplastics are now found everywhere we look—in the soil, in the rainwater, in the food chain, and even inside our own bodies,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “This has to stop. We are killing ourselves and our planet. For too long, the plastics industry has been allowed to police itself when it comes to ensuring their pellets don’t end up in the environment. The industry has failed abysmally, and with that failure created an environmental problem of crisis levels. It is time for the plastics industry to step up and cover the costs of ensuring their products remain in their facilities and do not end up in our environment.”