This Is Plastics: Biden Administration move to reduce single-use plastic usage could result in environmental harm, decreases in accessibility and added costs for all


Biden Administration move to reduce single-use plastic usage could result in environmental harm, decreases in accessibility and added costs for all

The approach to reducing emissions must be collaborative, realistic and based on scientific facts to avoid pitfalls, including rising consumer prices and environmental harm.


Despite scientific evidence that plastics are a more environmentally friendly alternative to many traditionally used materials, from both an emissions and resource standpoint, single-use plastics remain a target for further bans and regulations. Limiting single-use plastic options can have negative consequences on the environment and the economy.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recently announced that it will review the use of plastic in shipping and packaging to inform new requirements aimed at reducing single-use plastic in the federal government. The GSA, which manages federal property and serves as the government’s purchasing authority, could significantly impact, for the worse, federal operations by pushing government to choose less environmentally responsible options that are also more expensive and less effective in their applications, all while failing to support robust end-of-life disposal mechanisms for products.

The Biden Administration and the plastics industry both understand that reducing emissions is a top priority. However, the approach to doing so must be collaborative, realistic and based on scientific facts to avoid pitfalls including rising consumer prices and environmental harm.

Congress is currently reviewing four bills specifically focused on plastics and recycling. Two of those, the Break Free from Plastic Pollution (Break Free) Act and the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act, would ban single-use plastics and place moratoriums on the construction of new plastics production and advanced recycling facilities, impeding U.S. abilities to recycle valuable materials that consumers use every day.

Two alternate bills, the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (RCAA) and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (RIAA), aim to support recycling by investing in new infrastructure and sustainability education to increase recycling rates. These bills offer effective action that can truly create change, instead of banning materials that are vital to increasing accessibility. The pathways laid out in these bills should be the framework for any new requirements set by the GSA.

Plastic has been proven to be a more environmentally friendly material. A recent report by environmental scientist Ken Green found that plastic outperforms alternative materials like glass, paperboard and metal in terms of emissions and water, energy and resource use. Despite this and other studies that continue to exhibit plastics as the more environmentally efficient choice, regulatory mandates including  Canada banning single-use plastics by the end of 2022 at the federal level and the U.S. government banning single-use plastics in National Parks have offered redundantly ineffective solutions.

In addition to being more environmentally friendly during production, plastic is a more affordable, more durable option for many uses, from food and beverages to industrial applications like construction. In turn, plastics can increase access for consumers who may be feeling the financial squeeze of rising inflation and high prices. Lower prices also allow the federal government to reduce shipping and packaging costs without risking quality. Even in its end-of-life, plastic can be easily recycled into new plastic products, helping to meet the ever-increasing demand for recycled content. At every step of its life cycle, plastic is helping the environment and consumers. Efforts to remove or reduce its use will only be detrimental to all stakeholders and the global environment.

Increased investment into sustainable, post-consumer recycling systems to ensure that as much post-consumer plastic as possible can be responsibly disposed of should be the GSA’s focus. Banning and reducing the use of these materials will only hurt the environment while also tremendously increasing prices for the federal government, which means diverting valuable consumer tax dollars from social programs and infrastructure development. Instead, like the RCAA and RIAA, the GSA should support investment into recycling and infrastructure to create a more circular economy that can process more material and increase the supply of much-needed recycled content.

A 60-day comment period for the GSA’s proposed new requirements is upcoming, providing consumers, organizations, legislators, and companies with the opportunity to pushback on these harmful regulations. Collaboration to expand recycling systems, while increasing our use of plastic and plastic products, will support common goals to increase accessibility and affordability while also protecting our environment.

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