07 • 22 • 2019

Pass the BFFP Pollution Act

Surfrider Foundation is working closely with allies in the Capitol to pass bold federal legislation to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

In January 2019, the Surfrider Foundation and University of California Los Angeles Law School Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment presented at two Congressional Briefings on Capitol Hill to discuss plastic pollution solutions. The presentations focused on their joint report on federal actions to address marine plastic pollution and set the stage for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.

The Surfrider Foundation initially began working with Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal soon after on developing the outline that eventually became their outline of bold federal legislation to tackle the plastic waste pollution crisis, which was issued in July 2019. The lawmakers sought input from stakeholders and planned to introduce comprehensive legislation that fall.

The original Break Free From Pollution Act was introduced on February 11, 2020. In August 2020, Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal released a memo directed at state legislators encouraging state and local legislators to use the BFFPPA as a blueprint for introducing new state and local bills.

On March 25, 2021, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) reintroduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (S. 984/H. R.2238) and provided these Section By Section and Bulleted bill summaries.  Surfrider Foundation also spoke at the reintroduction rally.

You can take action in support of the bill by signing our action alert for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. 

The reintroduced Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will:

  • Require producers of packaging, containers, and food-service products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs.
  • Launch a nationwide beverage container refund program to bolster recycling rates.
  • Ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable.
  • Ban single-use plastic carryout bags and place a fee on the distribution of the remaining carryout bags, which has proven successful at the state level.
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products.
  • Channel massive investments in U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure.
  • Prohibit plastic waste from being shipped to developing countries.
  • Protect state and local governments that enact more stringent standards.
  • Require EPA to partner with the National Academies of Science to conduct a comprehensive study on the environment and cumulative public health impacts of incinerators and plastic chemical recycling facilities.
  • Establish a temporary pause on permitting new and expanded plastic production facilities while the EPA creates and, as necessary, updates regulations on plastic production facilities to protect frontline and fenceline communities from direct and cumulative impacts on public health.
  • Requires a study on derelict fishing gear and a description of actions the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere will take within the first year after the report is published. 

Updates for reintroduction include:

  • Closes waste export loopholes by banning waste exports to countries who themselves re-export to developing countries.
  • Includes additional language to ensure minimum standards for what bags can be considered “reusable.”
  • Includes important language justice requirements to ensure that professional translation services are provided for non-English speaking communities and accessibility services for the disability community.
  • Expands the definition of toxic chemicals and prohibits such toxic chemicals from being included in covered products.
  • Includes actions to limit microfiber pollution by mandating filters on washing machines and requires a study on best practices for upstream microfiber pollution prevention.
  • Incentivizes greater reuse through the creation of pilot programs to implement reuse and refill technology.
  • Expands previous language tackling plastic pellet pollution, microplastic pollution, and wet wipe labelling standards.

As of May 2022, the BFFPPA has 127 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 14 in the Senate of the 117th U.S. Congress.


Plastic Pollution