Senate panel considers solutions to plastic pollution

The Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works held a hearing last week on the Impact of Plastic Use and Identifying Solutions for Reducing Plastic Waste

Beyond plastic

Large pile of single-use plastic bottles
Huguette Roe | Shutterstock.com

America’s plastic problem has gotten way out of hand.

Most of us diligently recycle, take reusable bags with us when we shop, and look for new ways to stop using so much single use plastic “stuff”. Our individual actions are necessary, but won’t be enough.

To that end, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works held a hearing last week on the Impact of Plastic Use and Identifying Solutions for Reducing Plastic Waste. The hearing was led by Senator Merkley from Oregon who has been a champion of Break Free From Plastic and other bills around reducing plastic. Two of the witnesses who testified. John Peterson Myers, the founder, CEO, and Chief Scientist at Environmental Health Services, and Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics, gave good overviews of the effects of plastic on human health and legislation we need to move to a society without single-use plastics. 

Myers testified about the health impacts of plastic that have been thoroughly studied and documented. He talked about the effects of plastic on reproductive health and plastics’ link to different types of cancers, autism, and ADHD. What is really important that he mentioned is there are no warning labels or testing for the different resins of plastics that exist, especially because there are thousands of different chemicals used in plastic. 

Enck testified about the importance of bans and the decrease of materials such as plastic bags and styrofoam in the waste stream after they are banned. She also talked about bottle bills, water fountains, dishwashers, and other infrastructure that makes it possible to move beyond plastic. 

The plastic industry continues to push back against these ideas, but imagining what a world would look like beyond plastic is an important part of the transition and this hearing was an important first step. 

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