Policy Update

Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act Introduced in Congress



NCEL Point of Contact


This morning U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act –  a groundbreaking and comprehensive federal plan to prevent plastic pollution from entering the food chain, landscapes, waterways, and oceans. This bill leverages state actions to respond to the growing plastic pollution problem and builds on successes previously enacted by state legislatures. 

Some of the overarching components of this bill include:

  • Requiring producers to take responsibility for collecting and recycling waste, ultimately shifting the financial burden of clean up to producers
  • Creating a minimum recycled content requirement for producers 
  • Requiring national beverage container deposits
  • Phasing out top polluting plastic products such as polystyrene cutlery and plates, straws, or cotton buds
  • Imposing a carryout bag fee
  • Standardizing recycling and composting labels
  • Allowing environmental agencies to investigate the impacts of new plastic-producing facilities before issuing permits
  • Protecting existing state actions

So far in 2020, 36 states have introduced over 200 pieces of legislation to reduce plastic pollution. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is a significant example of federal leadership that builds on state efforts toward plastic pollution reduction.

Visit the NCEL’s webpage on plastic pollution for more information on the topic and for lists of legislation related to methods of reducing plastic pollution.