Surfrider applauds introduction of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 by U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal

Today, the Surfrider Foundation, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches, celebrated the introduction of an important federal bill in the battle to curb plastic pollution. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 is the culmination of nearly a year of productive discussions between U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal, the Surfrider Foundation, environmental groups involved with the Break Free From Plastic movement, and other stakeholders. The bill approaches the plastic pollution crisis comprehensively and with a focus on source reduction of plastic, in keeping with goals of the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Initiative.

The Surfrider Foundation initially began working with Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal soon after presenting at two Congressional Briefings on Capitol Hill in January 2019. The presentations focused on the Surfrider Foundation’s joint report on federal actions to address marine plastic pollution, developed with the UCLA Law School Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Surfrider met with federal lawmakers at that time and was influential in developing the outlinethat eventually became the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020.

“Plastic pollution is swamping our ocean so it’s encouraging to see a federal bill that is as ambitious as the size of the problem,” said Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation.“As single-use plastic is ubiquitous in our ocean and waves, and on our beaches, we are excited to see this proactive, comprehensive legislation introduced at the national level. By working together, we can advance the protection of clean water and healthy beaches for all people.” 

“Plastic pollution has reached crisis levels globally and for too long we have ignored the issue here in the United States. It is irresponsible for us to ignore this crisis, which is choking our waterways and wildlife and impacting our environment and public health. The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act will tackle the plastic pollution crisis by using proven best practices around the world as well as incorporate important efforts used by State and local governments here in the United States,” said Representative Lowenthal (D-CA), joint author of the Act. “My legislation, introduced in the Senate by Senator Udall, strips the failing systems currently in place and lifts the financial burden of managing and cleaning up these products away from the municipalities and taxpayers alone and puts the onus on the manufactures and companies who sell the products. Our comprehensive and holistic legislation will create a more robust domestic recycling infrastructure, reduce our dependence on single-use plastics, and more meaningfully protect our communities from the negative impact of these products.”

“It’s wonderful to see Surfrider Foundation’s hard work in the research and advocacy on plastic pollution result in this strong legislation,” said the Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Director, Angela Howe. “We are so grateful to have worked with the intelligent and dedicated individuals from the UCLA Environmental Law Clinic to provide the congressional briefings and background information used as the impetus for this bill.  We are now committed to making these policy recommendations a reality in order to stop the global plastic pollution crisis.” 

“We commend Sen. Udall and Rep. Lowenthal on their commitment to source reduction of plastic pollution in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act,” said Surfrider’s Legal Associate for the Plastic Pollution Initiative, Jennie Romer.“The bill draws upon successful policies from across the U.S. and around the world to create one very comprehensive bill that focuses on source reduction of certain problematic plastic products, such as bags, straws, and foam. It also emphasizes important bigger picture ideas, namely Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and a pause on new permits for plastic production facilities. We appreciate the inclusive process that they undertook in drafting this bill, gathering input from subject matter experts, including the Surfrider Foundation, and circulating drafts for comment.”

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.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 was introduced on February 11 to the 116th United States Congress for consideration by the nation’s federal lawmakers. Surfrider continues to advocate for this law, as well as other federal, state and local policies to address source reduction of plastic pollution. This advocacy, coupled with Surfrider’s beach cleanup program and innovative Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, encourages individuals, industry and governments to protect the ocean, waves and beaches by moving away from single-use plastics.

More information and updates are available on Surfrider’s campaign page for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020.


About the Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains more than one million supporters, activists and members, with over 170 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 600 victories protecting our coasts. Learn more at