Statement: Virgin plastic fee would encourage recycling but Congress should go further

Media Contacts
Alex Truelove

A bill introduced in the Senate would reduce virgin plastic production, but it wouldn’t necessarily reduce pollution


DENVER — Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island introduced legislation on Wednesday that would enact a new per-pound fee on virgin plastic in single-use products. The bill, entitled “Rewarding Efforts to Decrease Unrecycled Contaminants in Ecosystems (REDUCE) Act,” would direct revenue to a plastic waste reduction fund.

Companies that use virgin plastic to make essential items like medical products would not have to pay the fee and could qualify for a full rebate for any fees paid.

In response, Alex Truelove, U.S. PIRG Zero waste director, issued the following statement:

“The premise of this legislation makes sense: a fee on virgin plastic in single-use products would encourage manufacturers to use more recycled plastic. That’s good, because making new plastic is harmful and resource intensive.

“At the same time, we can only recycle what we actually collect and divert from landfills and incinerators. Plastic that’s littered, exported or illegally dumped won’t be addressed by this bill. Even if a plastic container is made up of recycled products, it’s still pollution if it ends up in the ocean. The only way to address that pollution is to make and use less single-use plastic. We need to take a more comprehensive legislative approach to plastic waste if we’re going to succeed.”