How Should President Biden Address the Plastic Pollution Crisis?

Guest blog post by Hailey Kutcher, IOC intern. 

Humans have created 8.3 billion tons of plastic, 79% of which is now in landfills, our ocean, or the environment. While there has been a lot of research done around the harms of plastic, we will probably never know the true extent to which plastic pollution will not only affect the planet, but wildlife, our pets and the human population. 

Even though we now know that plastic is a large contributor to climate change due to its creation from fossil fuels and greenhouse gases emitted at every stage of its lifecycle, the production of plastic is not slowing down. Plastic production has gone from 2 million tons in 1950 annually, to approximately 440 million tons in 2015 and is expected to quadruple in the next 30 years. 

The lifecycle of plastic products does not stop when we throw plastic items away. When plastic ends up in a landfill or is incinerated, it continues to release carbon dioxide and harmful toxins like lead, mercury, dioxins, heavy metals, and PCBs into the atmosphere.

The solution to the plastic pollution crisis is to reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic being produced. The Presidential Plastics Action Plan, which was created by a coalition of environmental groups, has identified eight key steps that President Biden can take immediately, without any action from Congress:

  1. Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single-use plastic items and replace them with reusable products
  2. Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities, associated infrastructure projects, and exports
  3. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions
  4. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors
  5. Update existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastics facilities by using best available science and technology
  6. Stop subsidizing plastics producers
  7. Join international efforts to address the global plastic pollution crisis through new and strengthened multilateral agreements
  8. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear

Visit the Presidential Plastics Action Plan website for more information and ways you can help stop the plastic pollution crisis. 

Outside of large actions such as the Presidential Plastics Action Plan, there are many simple and low cost ways to help curb the amount of plastic waste you create in your everyday life. 

Below are a few examples of plastic free alternatives:

  • Reusable bags 
  • Metal straws 
  • Reusable water bottles  
  • Reusable storage containers/food bags
  • Plastic free laundry detergent strips
  • Plastic free toothpaste tablets
  • Choose products with less plastic packaging
  • Buying in bulk where possible
  • And many more! 

The options are endless!