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12 • 08 • 2020

#PlasticFreePresident - 8 Actions President Biden Can Take To Solve The Plastics Pollution Crisis

By Angela Howe

The Surfrider Foundation joined 550 other environmental groups today to ask for President-elect Joe Biden to become a #PlasticFreePresident.  In a monumental effort led by the Center for Biological Diversity with Surfrider Foundation as a convening partner, the NGO community fighting plastic pollution banded together to make this critical request of the incoming President of the United States.  The request consists of eight executive actions that can be taken by the federal executive branch.

The Presidential Plastics Action Plan urges the incoming President to reduce single-use plastic pollution and address the harms of the entire plastics lifecycle. Upwards of 99% of plastic is created from chemicals made from a cheap oversupply of fracked gas. On the front end, plastic production fuels the climate crisis with increased greenhouse gas emissions and damages local communities where plastic production plants pollute through toxic air emissions and water pollution.  Downstream, we find this material is ubiquitous in our waterways and on our beaches, failing to break down and wreaking havoc on marine life.

The requested actions of the incoming President include placing a moratorium on new plastic production facilities, using federal purchasing power to curb single-use plastics, tightening up regulation of the petrochemical industry, ending fossil fuel subsidies and protecting environmental justice communities from pollution.

The Presidential Plastic Action Plan includes a detailed list of eight priority actions:

1.    Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single-use plastic items and replace them with reusable products;

2.    Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities, associated infrastructure projects, and exports;

3.    Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions;

4.    Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors;

5.    Update existing federal regulations using the best available science and technology to curtail pollution from plastic facilities;

6.    Stop subsidizing plastic producers;

7.    Join international efforts to address the global plastic pollution crisis through new and strengthened multilateral agreements;

8.     Reduce and mitigate the impacts of abandoned, discarded and lost fishing gear.

In order to address the rampant single-use plastic pollution that Surfrider volunteers find time and again on beaches, the Presidential Plastics Action Plan calls for the federal government to utilize its tremendous purchasing power to eliminate single-use plastic and move toward a reusable economy. Single-use plastics account for over two-thirds of the plastic waste that Surfrider Foundation volunteers find on our beaches.  As the federal government is likely one of the largest consumers of single-use plastic in the nation, the switch to reusables could significantly reduce disposables and spur demand for alternative reusable products. 

The Action Plan also calls for environmental justice action. Domestically, this includes increased oversight for petrochemical production industry. As we search in the U.S. to allay the discord of racial inequities at home, we must also consider communities abroad. The United States waste trade policies are fueling global inequities, including not just the proliferation of poverty in suffering nations but also the health of families and children inundated with plastic waste around the globe.

Whereas Surfrider normally approaches this problem through beach cleanups and proactively with the power of legislative proposals, there’s untapped potential in the executive branch. We are calling upon this power today to help solve the crisis of plastic pollution.

If you'd like to join the movement to call for a #PlasticFreePresident, sign the petition here to call upon the next President of the United States to lead the country toward a plastic free environment.