It’s not all election-year gridlock. US policies to protect nature are advancing in Congress and the states

A group of people in WWF shirts stand in a line in front of the US Capitol Building

It’s easy to think while reading the news lately that policymakers in a gridlocked Congress can’t achieve much of anything, especially in an election year.

But legislative efforts to protect nature are nevertheless moving forward. Just a few months into 2024, several bills that WWF is advocating for at the federal and state levels to curb plastic pollution, invest in biodiversity conservation, conserve forests, and reduce food waste are advancing with strong bipartisan support.

No Plastic in Nature

WWF urges world leaders to act strongly and decisively in developing the full content of the treaty by the end of 2024.

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Reducing plastic waste

We're pushing for strong global, federal, and state-level action to transform how we produce, recycle, and dispose of plastic.

During WWF’s annual Lobby Day on March 7, 61 dedicated activists and staff met with members of Congress to advocate for robust plastic pollution policies.

Just a week later, the Senate passed two of the bills we advocated for in a positive step forward to keep plastics out of nature. The Recycling and Composting Accountability Act would enhance recycling data collection and establish a national composting strategy and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act would create a US Environmental Protection Agency pilot program for recycling projects in rural and underserved areas. We’re now urging the House to send these pragmatic measures to President Biden to improve America’s waste management systems with the confidence that they have strong support from consumers and businesses alike to act.

Businesses and environmental groups, including WWF, have urged the president to show strong federal leadership to enact policies like Extended Producer Responsibility that incentivize companies to reduce their plastic footprints and keep plastic out of nature.

Such policies are already moving forward at the state level. WWF is urging Minnesota lawmakers to pass the Packaging Waste and Cost Reduction Act that would require all packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2032 now that it has advanced through multiple committees in each legislative chamber.

We’re also setting our sights on global efforts to reduce plastic waste. Negotiators made strides at the most recent round of talks in Ottawa, but there is still significant work ahead when leaders meet once more at the end of this year to complete a robust global agreement that addresses the entire lifespan of plastic.

Investing in wildlife and biodiversity conservation

Stopping wildlife and nature loss will require strong American leadership that ensures we have the resources to meet the steep challenges we face. Congress has now advanced three important bills WWF supports to mobilize financing from both the public and private sectors for critical conservation efforts.

The House in early February passed the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver Reauthorization (WILD) Act to reauthorize critical US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) programs for five years, including the Multinational Species Conservation Funds that help protect elephants, rhinos, tigers, great apes, and sea turtles in the wild. These funds support critical conservation projects like the recent collaboration among WWF, USFWS, USAID, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and partnering governments to conduct a survey of elephants in southern Africa, which concluded the population is stable.

Another WWF-backed bill, the US Foundation for International Conservation Act, has advanced through the committee level in both the House and Senate and now awaits floor action. This legislation would help forge new public-private partnerships to provide financial support for effective local community management of protected areas around the world.

The House Natural Resources Committee also advanced the Indian Buffalo Management Act, which would create a permanent program within the US Department of the Interior to support tribal-led buffalo restoration efforts. WWF is a proud ally in initiatives to restore iconic buffalo to US grasslands, guided and informed by the leadership of Native Nations.

Conserving forests and stopping illegal trade

We marked International Day of Forests in March by welcoming support from major food companies—including Danone North America, Mars Inc., Nestlé USA, and Unilever United States, which are members of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance—for the goals of the Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act. This bill would help ensure that US imports of agricultural products like palm oil, cocoa, rubber, and wood are not tied to illegal deforestation rapidly fueling nature loss, international crime, and climate change. Policies that ensure the products we use every day aren’t sourced to forest degradation will help encourage responsible business practices.

The US also has a historic opportunity to lead at the state level. New York legislators passed bipartisan legislation last year that would prevent the state from buying products that contribute to tropical deforestation, which Governor Kathy Hochul ultimately vetoed last December. But the good news is that we now have another opportunity to get this done.

New York State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski reintroduced the Tropical Rainforest Economic & Environmental Sustainability (TREES) Act with provisions to address the governor’s concerns while achieving our shared goals to curb deforestation. By leveraging its purchasing power, New York can lead the way in halting the loss of tropical forests and supporting responsible businesses.

Reducing food loss and waste

About a third of greenhouse gas emissions making our planet warmer by the year are due to unsustainable food systems. As a proud member of the Zero Food Waste Coalition, WWF is urging lawmakers to adopt pragmatic bipartisan measures to reduce food waste.

WWF helped lead the coalition's first in-person advocacy event on Capitol Hill, which included meetings with more than 50 congressional offices to push for two bipartisan bills: The NO TIME TO Waste Act, which would establish an Office of Food Loss and Waste at the Department of Agriculture to spearhead a holistic approach to reducing food waste, and the Food Date Labeling Act, which would streamline food date labeling categories to communicate the difference between peak food quality and the actual end of a product’s estimated shelf life.

Twenty-three industry leaders signed on in support of the Food Date Labeling Act because they recognize streamlining the current patchwork system would make it easier for businesses to label their food and ensure that perfectly wholesome food isn't needlessly wasted.

The road ahead

The momentum for these practical measures shows how nature can bring people—even political parties routinely at odds—together. But our work to secure these critical policies to stop nature loss is far from done. Join us in taking action today to protect wildlife and wild places.

Explore ways you can take action right now to protect wildlife and wild places.

Learn more about WWF's work influencing US government policy.