For years, Americans have been taught the three R’s — reduce, reuse, and recycle — and that as long as we put our plastic items into blue bins, we could protect our environment. The truth is, it’s more like the three B’s — plastic is buried, burned, or borne out to sea — which means dangerous chemicals are seeping into our air, water, and soil — threatening Americans’ health, especially in communities of color and low-income communities.
Things are getting bad enough that the average American is ingesting a credit card’s amount of plastic every week. If that isn’t a sign that it’s time for all of us to pitch in and do our part to tackle this crisis, I don’t know what is.
That’s why last week, I introduced a resolution to designate July as Plastic Pollution Action Month, to help spread awareness about plastic’s threat to human health and our environment, and to urge our communities to take important steps to protect, conserve, and maintain our planet by reducing our plastic pollution.
But this is a problem that’s too big to be solved by individual action alone — the government and the major corporations responsible for creating plastics in the first place have to step up too. That’s why I also pressed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last week to address the impacts of microplastic pollution generated from tires and roads on Pacific Northwest salmon populations. These fish are ecologically irreplaceable, have long been of major cultural significance for many Native American tribes, and have been essential to the lives and livelihoods of families in the region for generations. We simply cannot stand idly by while they are poisoned by dangerous plastic chemicals.
Both of these actions this week underscore why it’s so important that Congress passes the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act — legislation I’m leading that offers the most comprehensive plan ever introduced in Congress to get corporations responsible for pumping plastics into our air, water, and land to transition away from plastic use and to use their massive profits to do their fair share of cleaning up. I’m going to keep fighting to get this bill across the finish line.
Plastic pollution is a serious problem that has extremely serious consequences for the health and well-being of our families and our planet. I hope you will join me in my mission to tackle this problem, so we can protect ourselves, our neighbors, and our ecosystems from irreparable harm.
All my best,
Sen. Jeff Merkley