Holding plastic producers accountable

Wasteful plastic: We didn’t ask for it, and we can’t avoid it. But at PIRG, we have a plan to deal with it.

Beyond plastic

Patrick Kelly-Fischer | TPIN

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In the U.S., we generate 35 million tons of plastic waste each and every year.

We didn’t ask for all this plastic waste, but we can’t avoid it. If you’ve ever tried to go shopping without bringing home a big pile of unnecessary packaging, or if you’ve done any online shopping this holiday season, you know how hard it is to avoid wasteful plastic.

Wouldn’t you like to see the producers responsible for flooding our lives with all this plastic “stuff” take responsibility for the waste their products become? Perhaps you can …

Producers are flooding us with single-use plastic waste

Just 20 companies are responsible for producing over half of all single-use plastic in the world. By convincing corporations and other plastic producers to cut back on wasteful plastic, we can make progress toward turning the plastic pollution crisis around.

After all, the first step when your bathtub is flooding over isn’t to start mopping. The first thing you do is turn off the tap. We must stop the flood of plastic pollution at its source.

Holding plastic producers responsible for their waste

Imagine if we required producers to physically collect their products at the end of their use if they aren’t readily recyclable. Or, if we required producers to pay fees based on their products’ negative impact that would fund the collection and disposal of their products.

Such a system would incentivize the production of more sustainable alternatives to plastic and the reduction of how much material a packaging producer makes, period. It would promote the recycling of old materials into new. 

And with a handful of states having already enacted “responsibility laws,” we know it’s possible. 

How we confront the plastic pollution crisis

Promoting producer responsibility isn’t the only tool in our toolbox to confront the plastic pollution crisis at PIRG. Here are just a few more tools we’re using to move beyond plastic:

  • We’re working to ban some of the worst forms of single-use plastic at the state level. Thanks to years of advocacy, more than one-third of Americans now live in a state that has banned some type of single-use plastic.
  • We’re calling on major retailers to take unnecessary single-use plastic off their shelves. And we’re making progress: Amazon now plans to phase out their blue and white plastic-padded shipping bags. Costco has agreed to reveal some key statistics about its plastic use, a key first step towards phasing wasteful plastic out.
  • We’re advocating for federal action to tackle the plastic waste crisis, including the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act — a bill that brings together great policies from expanded producer responsibility — to the phasing out of some harmful single-use products, and beyond.

It’s clear that nothing we use for just a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our communities and threaten our health for hundreds of years. And together, we know we can make a more sustainable future possible.