In the U.S. we generate enough plastic waste to fill Cowboys Stadium, the largest professional football stadium in the country, every 16 hours. All of this plastic is harming our health, our communities and our planet.
Thankfully, over the past few years, states across the country have been taking action to reduce plastic pollution– and these efforts are gaining steam.
On Wednesday, Environment America and PIRG hosted “Uniting States Against Plastic Pollution,” which featured advocates and elected officials from California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and Colorado and highlighted recent state policy victories and emerging policy ideas for tackling this growing environmental problem.
PIRG and our state affiliates have a 50-year legacy of challenging wasteful consumption that harms our health and our planet, starting with successful campaigns to pass bottle bills to encourage recycling of beverage containers in the 70s and 80s. The network of state environment groups that are part of Environment America have built upon and added to that legacy with their own campaigns to value the protection of wildlife over waste, and ban single-use plastic bags and other products.
Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. The United States generates over 12 percent of the planet’s waste even though we make up just 4 percent of the population. That averages out to around 5 pounds of material per American every single day.
The production of that material consumes precious natural resources, and contributes to climate change. Only a third of our waste is recycled or composted while the vast majority is sent to landfills, incinerators, or the natural environment.
We need to take decisive steps to address our growing waste crisis, and move to a circular, zero-waste economy.
One immediate, obvious step we should take is eliminating the unnecessary use of single-use plastics that have become so pervasive in our economy. So the state organizations that participated in the event, along with many other allies, have been campaigning for policies to phase out the most wasteful single use plastics in their communities, enable reuse and refill and make plastic producers responsible for their waste.
And we’re making progress: One in three Americans now lives in a state that has taken action to reduce plastic pollution. And that number is only going to grow in the coming years.
Together, we can move states, and our country, beyond plastic.
Trash in America
Frequently asked questions about recycling plastics
“Chemical recycling”: What it is, and what it definitely is not
Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network
Emily is the senior director for state organizations for The Public Interest Network. She works nationwide with the state group directors for PIRG and Environment America to help them build stronger organizations and achieve greater success. Emily was the executive director for CALPIRG from 2009-2021, overseeing a myriad of CALPIRG campaigns to protect public health, protect consumers in the marketplace, and promote a robust democracy. Emily works in our Oakland, California, office, and loves camping, hiking, gardening and cooking with her family.