September 28, 2021

REDUCE Act Gains Steam Ahead with Support from Major Environmental Groups

Whitehouse releases letter of support from leading green NGOs as House introduces plastic pollution fee and reconciliation negotiations continue. Bill would set a fee on virgin plastic to incentivize recycling and help hold the plastics industry accountable.

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) heralded support from a wide array of environmental groups for his bill with Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY) to create a powerful new incentive to recycle plastic, and to help end the flood of plastic waste that is overwhelming vital ecosystems and threatening public health. Whitehouse and Suozzi’s Rewarding Efforts to Decrease Unrecycled Contaminants in Ecosystems (REDUCE) Act would impose a 20-cent per pound fee on the sale of new, or “virgin”, plastic used for single-use products. The fee would help recycled plastics compete with virgin plastics on more equal footing and ensure that the plastics industry is accountable for its harms to the climate, oceans, and minority and low-income communities.

“Support is growing for our plastic polluter fee bill,” said Whitehouse. “We need to end the cascade of plastic pollution into our environment. That pollution chokes our oceans, hastens climate change, and threatens Americans’ well-being, and it’s the plastics industry that should cover the cost of the damage. I’m glad to partner with Congressman Suozzi to send a strong market signal to reduce plastic waste and boost recycled plastic. I’m also glad to earn the support of leading ocean and environmental advocates.”

Signatories to a letter signaling strong support for the bill include the Ocean Conservancy, U.S. PIRG, the World Wildlife Fund, the American Sustainable Business Council, Barrel Bag, Californians Against Waste, the Clean Air Council, Environment America, Fenceline Watch, GAIA, Greenpeace, Inland Ocean Coalition, Lonely Whale, Oceana, Oceanic Global, Our Climate, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Social Venture Circle, Surfrider Foundation, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

“A virgin plastic fee, such as the REDUCE Act, as introduced by Senator Whitehouse and Representative Suozzi, will level the economic playing field between virgin and recycled plastic, incentivize reuse and recycling of plastic, and will raise revenue to invest in needed recycling and waste management infrastructure,” the groups write. “In our current political moment, we cannot afford to pass on the opportunity to create change in upcoming legislative packages, including reconciliation.”

Read the full letter here.

A fee on the production of virgin plastic would give the market a stronger incentive to use recycled plastics. It would also ensure the plastics industry bears some of the burden for the environmental damage it causes. The top 100 virgin plastic producers accounted for 90 percent of the global single-use plastic waste.

The REDUCE Act would:

  • Establish an excise tax on virgin plastic resin. Plastic resin is the base material that makes up plastics. Manufacturers, producers, and importers of virgin plastic resins would pay $0.10 per pound in 2022, increasing gradually up to $0.20 per pound in 2024. This fee would apply to virgin plastic used to make single-use products, including plastic packaging, beverage containers, bags, and food service products. Exported virgin plastic resin and post-consumer recycled resin would be exempt.
  • Provide rebates for certain products. Companies that use virgin plastic to make medical products, containers or packaging for medicines, personal hygiene products, and any packaging used for the shipment of hazardous materials would not have to pay the fee and could qualify for a full rebate for any fees paid on the plastic they use for such products. Virgin plastic used to make non-single-use products would also qualify for this rebate.
  • Establish a Plastic Waste Reduction Fund. The bill would direct revenue from the virgin plastic fee into a Plastic Waste Reduction Fund. Funds would be available to carry out plastic waste reduction and recycling activities, including making improvements to recycling infrastructure; to carry out marine debris reduction, detection, monitoring, and cleanup activities; and to address environmental justice and pollution impacts from the production of plastic.

More information on the bill is available here.

Rich Davidson (202) 228-6291 (press office)

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