Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2021  
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  Proposed US Conference of Mayors Policy Resolution "Support Plastic Pollution Reduction"
July 31, 2021

I have submitted the following policy resolution for consideration by the US Conference of Mayors meeting in Austin the first week of September. I’m in the process of lining up other mayor members as cosponsors.


WHEREAS, the plastic pollution crisis has grown so massive that waste management systems largely operated directly or under contract by cities are unable to handle it, with the U.S. ranked as the world’s largest generator of plastic waste (Law et al., 2020). Recent studies show that the amount of plastic entering our oceans will triple in the next 20 years (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2020). Without reducing plastic waste and holding producers accountable, the burden falls on local governments and taxpayers. This legislation provides the opportunity to create a circular economy of reusable products rather than throwaway plastics made from fossil fuels, and;

WHEREAS, plastics generate greenhouse gases at every phase of their life cycle: fossil fuel extraction and transport, refining and manufacturing, usage, waste management, and unmanaged plastic that permeates our land, water, and air. In 2019, it was estimated that plastic production and incineration emitted 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent to 189 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants operating at full capacity, and this is a conservative estimate (CIEL et al., 2019). We cannot solve the climate crisis without bold legislation aimed to mitigate plastic pollution, and:

WHEREAS, plastic pollutes our air, water, and landscapes killing and injuring wildlife and harming human health. It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up as microplastics and microfibers in our water and air. These have been found in the most remote places on earth, from the Mariana Trench to the human placenta (Ragusa et al., 2020). The endocrine disrupting chemicals found in plastics harm our health and can cause cancer, diabetes, reproductive disorders, and neurological impairments in development (Flaws et al., 2020), and;

WHEREAS, with the plastic industry’s plan to increase production of plastic by 40 percent over the next decade comes a serious threat not only to wildlife and the climate, but also to public health and safety. Pollution from the plastic industry exposes communities to chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, endocrine disruption and other serious health problems and can be biomagnified up the food chain (Rochman et al., 2014). Petrochemical facilities that turn fracked gas into plastic, and incinerators that burn plastic are often located in communities of color and low-income communities that bear the brunt of their dangerous pollution. The plastic pollution crisis is also an environmental justice
crisis, and;

WHEREAS, the US Conference of Mayors adopted the resolution” Supporting of Development and Expansion of Waste and Recycling Markets” at the 88th Annual meeting, but mitigation of plastic pollution needs to go beyond expansion of recycling markets, and:

WHEREAS, the United States must be a global leader in confronting the plastic pollution crisis, and;

WHEREAS, the State of Maine recently passed LD 1541 establishing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the US Conference of Mayors supports legislation at the state and federal level, such as California’s proposed Senate Bill 54 (Allen, 2019) and proposed Assembly Bill 1080 (Gonzales, 2019), the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act that will appear on the November 2022 ballot, and Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (HR 5845, 2019-2020) that address plastic pollution with reduction strategies that include expanding reuse/repair programs, enhancing recycling opportunities and increasing requirements for recycled content, phasing out certain plastic products, placing additional responsibility on manufacturers for waste management, addressing microplastics and microfibers as sources of pollution, restricting the export of plastic waste, and pausing new plastic production. It will also ensure language justice accessibility by requiring agency notices, decisions, and any engagement to be professionally interpreted and translated for multilingual communities.