In a united effort to address the growing plastic pollution crisis, Attorney General Michelle Henry has joined forces with 13 other Attorneys General, calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a more extensive and robust plan to tackle plastic waste management and reduce plastic production.
Plastic, notoriously non-biodegradable, breaks down into microplastics, tiny particles found in drinking water, food, air, and even human blood and lung tissue. Surprisingly, microplastics have been discovered in all of Pennsylvania’s tested stream waters, even in the most pristine areas.
Attorney General Henry expressed her commitment to environmental causes, citing the importance of ensuring Pennsylvanians’ rights to clean water and air. She believes that adopting the coalition’s recommendations will significantly reduce harmful plastics in waterways, clothing, and landfills.
Previously, the Office of Attorney General had urged the EPA to focus on community education regarding microfibers in clothing and pushed for stricter regulation of the petrochemical industry, particularly ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen.
The coalition emphasizes that the negative impacts of plastics begin long before they turn into waste. Plastic manufacturing plants often disproportionately affect low-income and communities of color, leading them to suffer higher plastic pollution levels in their air, land, and water.
Historically, the nation’s approach to plastics centered on improving recycling and cleaning up plastic pollution. However, the coalition urges a more comprehensive approach, emphasizing aggressive interventions at every stage of the plastic waste life cycle, including substantial reductions in plastic production.
To achieve these goals, the coalition recommends:
- Reducing plastic production as part of global, U.S., and state greenhouse gas emissions targets.
- Protecting communities from new petrochemical plants or capacity expansion at existing plants.
- Prioritizing funding for innovative strategies that reduce overall plastic use and promote reuse of materials.
- Implementing a national plastic products labeling standard to combat deceptive environmental marketing.
- Establishing stringent criteria for processes other than mechanical recycling to qualify as “recycling” and ensuring they protect the environment and human health.
- Broadening the scope of the plastic waste reduction strategy to include the fast fashion industry, which produces and sells cheap polyester clothing meant to be disposed of quickly, resulting in large volumes of textiles ending up in landfills.
The letter sent by Attorney General Henry and the coalition was co-signed by Attorneys General from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.
With the global production of plastics increasing exponentially, this coalition of Attorneys General aims to drive impactful change, ensuring a more sustainable future for the environment and communities nationwide.