Pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act

Active | July 22 2019

Plastic Pollution

The Surfrider Foundation is working with U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal to pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.

Over the past year, Surfrider has worked closely with U.S. Senator Tom Udall (NM) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) to introduce bold federal legislation to tackle the plastic pollution crisis: The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. The Act creates a comprehensive policy aimed at banning certain plastic products, instituting a national bottle bill, putting a temporary moratorium on new plastic plants, requiring post-consumer recycled content in some products, and — most importantly — creating an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program that would hold producers responsible for the cost of recycling or disposal of their products.

The bills (H.R. 5845 and S. 3263) had 29 original co-sponsors in the House and 6 original co-sponsors in the Senate at introduction (please see updated list of co-sponsors below). Your help is needed to generate more support. You can take action in support of the bill by signing our action alert for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.

The 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.
  • Create a nationwide beverage container refund program.
  • Ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable.
  • Ban single-use plastic carryout bags and place fee on the distribution of remaining carryout bags.
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products.
  • Spur 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.
  • Place a temporary pause on new plastic facilities until EPA updates and creates important regulations on those facilities.

Background and Timeline of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act

In January of 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.

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.

In August, Surfrider Foundation submitted a comment letter signed by 55 environmental and environmental justice organizations in support of the outline and continued to work closely with the lawmakers as they move forward with drafting and introducing the legislation in the fall. 

​In October, Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal released a discussion draft of the bill and sought public comments. The Surfrider Foundation signed on to this letter of support and submitted these redlined comments.

In January of 2020, updated draft bill was circulated along with supporting documents naming the bill the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020:

The Act was introduced on February 11, 2020. Jennie Romer, Legal Associate at the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Initiative, spoke at the bill introduction rally.  Jennie also wrote a subsequent blog post on plastics industry tactics, specifically comparing the BFFPPA to the RECOVER Act.


Updated List of Co-Sponsors

List of 68 co-sponsors as of 6/5/20 for House bill H.R.5845 (original co-sponsors have asterisks):
SPONSOR: Rep. Lowenthal, Alan S. [D-CA-47]
Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9]* 
Rep. Quigley, Mike [D-IL-5]* 
Rep. Barragan, Nanette Diaz [D-CA-44]* 
Rep. Case, Ed [D-HI-1]* 
Rep. Connolly, Gerald E. [D-VA-11]* 
Rep. Engel, Eliot L. [D-NY-16]* 
Rep. Haaland, Debra A. [D-NM-1]* 
Rep. Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20]* 
Rep. Huffman, Jared [D-CA-2]* 
Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]* 
Rep. Khanna, Ro [D-CA-17]* 
Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]* 
Rep. Levin, Mike [D-CA-49]* 
Rep. Lieu, Ted [D-CA-33]* 
Rep. McCollum, Betty [D-MN-4]* 
Rep. Moulton, Seth [D-MA-6]* 
Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large]* 
Rep. Panetta, Jimmy [D-CA-20]* 
Rep. Pingree, Chellie [D-ME-1]* 
Rep. Raskin, Jamie [D-MD-8]* 
Rep. Rouda, Harley [D-CA-48]* 
Rep. Sarbanes, John P. [D-MD-3]* 
Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9]* 
Rep. Suozzi, Thomas R. [D-NY-3]* 
Rep. Tlaib, Rashida [D-MI-13]* 
Rep. Velazquez, Nydia M. [D-NY-7]* 
Rep. Waters, Maxine [D-CA-43]* 
Rep. Welch, Peter [D-VT-At Large]* 
Rep. Carbajal, Salud O. [D-CA-24] 
Rep. Lofgren, Zoe [D-CA-19] 
Rep. Escobar, Veronica [D-TX-16] 
Rep. Meng, Grace [D-NY-6] 
Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3] 
Rep. Pressley, Ayanna [D-MA-7] 
Rep. Schrier, Kim [D-WA-8] 
Rep. Espaillat, Adriano [D-NY-13] 
Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9] 
Rep. Doggett, Lloyd [D-TX-35] 
Rep. Thompson, Mike [D-CA-5] 
Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1] 

Rep. Neguse, Joe [D-CO-2]

Rep. Thompson, Bennie G. [D-MS-2]
Rep. Beatty, Joyce [D-OH-3]
Rep. Lynch, Stephen F. [D-MA-8]
Rep. Wilson, Frederica S. [D-FL-24]
Rep. Watson Coleman, Bonnie [D-NJ-12]
Rep. Porter, Katie [D-CA-45]
Rep. Eshoo, Anna G. [D-CA-18]
Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11]
Rep. Blumenauer, Earl [D-OR-3]
Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6]
Rep. Larsen, Rick [D-WA-2]
Rep. Levin, Andy [D-MI-9]
Rep. Davis, Susan A. [D-CA-53]
Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5]
Rep. Blunt Rochester, Lisa [D-DE-At Large]
Rep. Delgado, Antonio [D-NY-19]
Rep. DelBene, Suzan K. [D-WA-1]
Rep. Kildee, Daniel T. [D-MI-5]
Rep. Kennedy, Joseph P., III [D-MA-4]
Rep. DeFazio, Peter A. [D-OR-4]
Rep. Kilmer, Derek [D-WA-6]
Rep. Dean, Madeleine [D-PA-4]
Rep. Garcia, Jesus G. "Chuy" [D-IL-4]
Rep. Cleaver, Emanuel [D-MO-5]
Rep. Napolitano, Grace F. [D-CA-32]
Rep. Vargas, Juan [D-CA-51]

List of 7 co-sponsors as of 6/5/20 for Senate bill S.3263 (original co-sponsors have asterisks):
SPONSOR: Sen. Udall, Tom [D-NM]
Sen. Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]* 
Sen. Booker, Cory A. [D-NJ]* 
Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR]* 
Sen. Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT]* 
Sen. Feinstein, Dianne [D-CA]* 
Sen. Harris, Kamala D. [D-CA]* 
Sen. Leahy, Patrick J. [D-VT] 

Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT]

Plastic Pollution

Rise Above Plastics is designed to eliminate the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics.

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