World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

Lobby Day 1

WWF leads push for Congress to act on plastic waste solutions

  • Date: 11 March 2024
  • Author: Cristina Marcos

From the witness stand of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to the offices of 68 members of Congress, WWF is leading the charge on Capitol Hill for pragmatic policy solutions to reduce plastic pollution.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a first-ever hearing on March 6 to evaluate a potential solution to plastic waste long championed by WWF: Extended Producer Responsibility. Erin Simon, WWF Vice President and Head, Plastic Waste and Business, served as an expert witness to explain why this concept, also known as EPR, to shift the financial responsibility of material waste management from consumers and municipalities to plastic producers would help transition our economy away from wasteful single-use plastics.

A day later, 61 supporters and staff from 23 states, including the District of Columbia met with members of Congress and their staff for WWF’s annual Lobby Day to advocate for the passage of legislation to reduce plastic waste.

The U.S. currently holds the dubious distinction of generating the most plastic waste in the world while having one of the lowest recycling rates of any developed country. A mere 9 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S. each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Plastic waste continues to pile up in American coastlines, rivers and landfills because the U.S. operates a patchwork of largely ineffective recycling systems.

WWF activists on Lobby Day 2024

To help reverse this troubling trend, WWF activists urged lawmakers to adopt national-level EPR to follow the existing models already set by states like Colorado, as well as pass bipartisan bills like the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act, which would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect additional data on recycling and conduct research that could inform a national composting strategy, and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act, which would create an EPA pilot program to build recycling infrastructure projects in rural and underserved communities.

At the Senate Environment and Public Works hearing the day before, Simon, a former Hewlett-Packard packaging engineer and material scientist before joining WWF, said that EPR is gaining traction globally because governments, consumers and businesses alike recognize that there needs to be more consistency in how people reuse and recycle plastic.

“Where we have common ground from more players than ever before is on Extended Producer Responsibility. We may have different reasons for why we want it, but ultimately, we all need better, more harmonized standards," Simon said.

Erin Simon, Vice President and Head of Plastic Waste + Business at WWF testifying on March 6 at the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on EPR

Some of the country’s most iconic businesses are taking steps on their own to reduce their plastic footprint. But ultimately, many of them, like those in the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, believe that only federal leadership can establish more consistent and effective practices for domestic plastic waste reduction.

As H. Fisk Johnson, the chairman and CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son who also testified at the Senate hearing, said: “We need federal regulation to avoid overregulation.”

Plastic is essential to modern life, from everything to food containers to lifesaving medical devices. But as Simon previously testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight in October 2023, it is no longer economically, socially or environmentally sustainable to produce single-use plastics.

A dump truck’s worth of plastic will continue to be dumped into the ocean with each passing minute that policymakers fail to act. We urge federal policymakers to join us in ensuring that plastic stays out of nature.


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