Coral reefs

Humans produce an estimated 400 million metric tons of plastic waste every year. Discarded plastic has damaged ecosystems around the world and caused serious harm to wildlife, especially in the oceans. Plastic waste can also break down into tiny particles that wind up in our food, water and air. For many years, recycling has been touted by businesses and environmentalists as a way to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and the oceans. However, only about 5% of the 51 million tons of plastic waste produced by American households in 2021 was recycled domestically. Unlike metal, paper and glass, plastics are much more difficult and expensive to recycle and most recycling facilities can’t recycle it at all. Once plastic hits a landfill, it could take hundreds of years to break down. It’s cheaper for companies to create new plastic than it is to recycle old plastic, so most plastics still end up in landfills. Advocates claim we cannot recycle our way out of this problem. They want producers of this material to bear the cost of its disposal. They call for new laws to limit the amount of plastic that is produced and to incentivize companies to use more sustainable materials. California recently passed a law that will require manufacturers — rather than taxpayers — to foot the bill for plastic recycling. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have recently discovered a way to manipulate an enzyme that can break down plastic in a matter of days. This process works at ambient temperature and could allow producers and recyclers to reduce the amount of plastic in landfills by billions of tons. However, the success of this breakthrough will depend upon the cost, the end product, any side effects and how much energy is required.

Proposed Legislation: Reintroduction of H.R.2238 - Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021
Prospective Sponsor: Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA)

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Poll Opening Date
May 22, 2023
Poll Closing Date
May 28, 2023

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