Letter to Congress: Support the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act

More than 160 clean water groups urge action on microplastic

Environment America, the Clean Water Network and Waterkeeper Alliance join more than 160 local, state and national clean water and environmental organizations in support of the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act (S. 2337, H.R. 7634).

April 3, 2024

Dear Senators and Representatives,

Plastic pollution is everywhere and it is harming our waterways and wildlife. That’s why we’re seeking your support for the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act (S. 2337, H.R. 7634), which stops the dumping of plastic nurdles into our waterways. 

Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets that form the raw material for plastic manufacturing. Because nurdles are small, cheap and easily contaminated, they’re often dumped by plastics manufacturers or spilled during transport.1  In the United States, clean water organizations and volunteers have documented pellet dumping and spills in Texas,2 South Carolina,3 Pennsylvania4 and beyond.  A study of 66 beaches in the Great Lakes region found 60 percent contained nurdles.5  

Once plastic enters our waterways, it is easy for animals to mistake it for food. Eighty kinds of seabird6 and every species of sea turtle7 have ingested plastic, and concentrations of microplastics have significantly increased in freshwater fish in the Chicago region.8 Animals who eat plastic can starve to death, and plastic pellets can also absorb toxic chemicals including DDT, PCBs, and mercury.9 

Plastic pellets are extremely difficult to clean up once they reach our waterways, and often polluters are not held accountable. One example: In Louisiana, 743 million pellets were spilled from a container ship in the Port of New Orleans. It took weeks to begin clean-up while agencies and companies debated who was responsible, by which point a local expert estimated as many as 75 percent of the pellets had already swept downstream.10 

We need to protect clean water and put wildlife over waste. The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act would do just that by banning the dumping of plastic pellets into our waterways. 

Congress must act before the problem gets any worse. Pellets dumped into our waterways are contaminating the streams and rivers Americans enjoy for fishing, swimming and recreation, and an estimated 10 trillion plastic pellets enter the ocean each year.11

We urge you to support the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act to protect our beloved waterways and put wildlife over waste.

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Authors

Lisa Frank

Executive Director, Washington Legislative Office, Environment America; Vice President and D.C. Director, The Public Interest Network

Lisa directs strategy and staff for Environment America's federal campaigns. She also oversees The Public Interest Network's Washington, D.C., office and operations. She has won millions of dollars in investments in walking, biking and transit, and has helped develop strategic campaigns to protect America's oceans, forests and public lands from drilling, logging and road-building. Lisa is an Oregonian transplant in Washington, D.C., where she loves hiking, running, biking, and cooking for friends and family.

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