Democrats in Congress are proposing a 5 cents fee for new plastic in single-use products, with half of the money going to fight climate change and the other half going to the public purse.
The fee was paid by MP Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz. and Chairman of the US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, incorporated into climate legislation. It would impose an excise duty of 5 cents a pound on virgin resin and set up a Virgin Plastic Trust Fund.
Grijalva added the plastic fee to its Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act on June 8, which was first introduced in 2020.
“We have a new addition to the bill,” he said in video comments released with the bill. “We can impose a fee on plastic producers. This will help fund marine conservation and reduce the wasteful material that is suffocating our marine life and causing environmental injustices in our communities. “
A law could also be presented in the Senate. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I. tweeted an editorial in the Washington Post on June 22, calling for a tax on virgin plastics, saying, “Stand by. One is on the way. “
Whitehouse was a major sponsor of the industry-backed Save Our Seas legislation, telling an audience at the Global Plastics Summit last year that recycling in the US is facing a “payoff”.
Meanwhile, Grijalva’s bill instructs President Joe Biden’s administration to enact regulations to determine the amount of virgin plastic in items in single-use plastic products that fall under the law.
In particular, Grijalva’s proposal would exempt plastics used in medical devices, infant formula, meal replacements, food and drug administration regulated containers, feminine hygiene, and sexual health products.
It states that these are plastic products that are routinely recycled or thrown away after a single use and are made from petroleum, natural gas or “plant-based resources”.
The plastic fee is part of Grijalva’s comprehensive climate legislation and has 26 other Democratic House co-sponsors, including some dedicated to plastic issues such as Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-California; Rep Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; and Representative Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore.
The Washington Plastics Industry Association said the potential resin tax was “unreasonable” and urged policymakers to “recognize the benefits plastics have in our daily lives.”
“Arbitrarily introducing a resin tax to pay for a laundry list of unrelated political items is an unreasonable approach to reaching environmental solutions,” the group said. “We all want cleaner oceans. [The group] supports the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, now a law that improves international cooperation and clean-up operations. “
The association said the industry is investing “tremendous resources” worldwide in recycling and waste management efforts, as well as innovation in materials and products.
The legislation also includes a provision directing the von Biden government to negotiate international agreements or other pacts to reduce the production of virgin plastic. Specifically, it calls for an agreement that “effectively reduces the global production of single-use plastic from new polymers to 10 percent of the 2010 level by 2050”. The bill does not contain any details on implementation.
The environmental group Oceana supports the fee to reduce single-use plastic.
Christy Leavitt, head of the group’s plastics campaign, said she’ll build on local and state bans, taxes, container deposits and guidelines that support reusable packaging. And she pointed to a referendum in California in 2022 that would charge fees for single-use plastic packaging.
“While this may be the first time Congress is considering a new item tax, we have seen single-use plastic bag fees have caused change across the country through city and state politics over the past decade,” said she.
Leavitt said the global plastics industry would be the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases if it were a country.
“We can’t fight climate change without fighting plastic,” she said. “The two are inextricably linked thanks to the colossal carbon footprint of plastic. Plastic contributes to climate change at every stage of its life cycle, causing an estimated 1.8 gigatons of global greenhouse gas emissions each year.”
Grijalva’s bill is much broader than the plastics fee, though he highlighted the resin tax in his comments.
The legislation would also seek, among other things, to set up carbon sinks in federal waters, update fuel regulations for fishing fleets, promote offshore wind energy, limit the development of new offshore fossil fuels, and abolish fishing subsidies in trade agreements.
The plastic tax came up briefly at a hearing that Grijalva chaired on its marine legislation on June 22nd. The congressman mentioned it in the opening speech and several panelists spoke out in favor of it, but it was not discussed by other congressmen.
Marce Gutierrez-Graudins, leader of the Azul environmental group, said she was “strongly” in support of a plastic tax.
He said his state’s beaches were “littered with microplastics,” arguing that California spends $ 400 million a year to prevent litter from entering the waterways.