Statement: New bill will tackle large threat posed by tiny plastics

Media Contacts
Lisa Frank

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

An estimated ten trillion pellets enter oceans each year


WASHINGTON – Reps. Mike Levin, Mary Peltola and 40 other lawmakers introduced the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act on Wednesday. Plastic pellets, also called nurdles, are often dumped by manufacturers or spilled during transport because they are small (about the size of a lentil), cheap and easily contaminated. Recently, a train crash spilled pellets along Pennsylvania’s Lehigh River. Once in our waterways, it’s easy for animals to mistake them for food and if they eat enough plastic, they can starve to death. The bill would ban discharges of plastic pellets from facilities or sources that make, use, package or transport them.

Clean water organizations and volunteers have documented pellet dumping and spills across the United states, including in Oregon, Texas, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.  More than 63% of Great Lakes beaches surveyed in 2020 contained nurdles.  

In response to the new legislation, experts released the following statements:

Lisa Frank, executive director of Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office said: 

“Plastic pollution is everywhere. Fragments have been found at popular fishing spots in Alaska and in Pennsylvania’s top trout streams, on our beaches and in the Great Lakes. When animals ingest this plastic, they can get sick and die. We should do everything we can to stop this pollution, but shockingly, some companies still dump and spill large quantities of plastic pellets into our waterways. That’s why Congress must pass the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act.”

Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG, said:

“Every day, we’re served tons of plastic cups, containers, bags and other products which become waste – but the problem starts long before that. The plastic pellets, or nurdles, used to make these products are frequently dumped or spilled by companies in the production process, spreading harmful toxins. We need to put a stop to plastic dumping and prioritize our health and the environment over the momentary convenience of single-use plastics.”