November 14, 2019

VIDEO: Udall Pushes for Nationwide ‘Bottle bill’ to Combat the Plastic Waste Crisis

In Commerce Committee markup of the Save our Seas 2.0 Act, Udall voted ‘No,’ saying legislation must do more to significantly reduce plastic pollution

Udall and Rep. Lowenthal are circulating a discussion draft of landmark legislation to tackle the plastic waste crisis that includes a national beverage container law and bans on single-use plastics

VIDEO LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdm9S2IY9N8&feature=youtu.be

WASHINGTON— In a meeting yesterday of the Senate Commerce Committee to consider S.1982, the Save our Seas 2.0 Act, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), said that bolder action is necessary to confront the gravity of the plastic pollution crisis. While he praised the bipartisan momentum on the issue, Udall voiced concerns that the legislation does not adequately address the plastic waste crisis. Udall pushed for the bill to include a nationwide beverage deposit program, known as a “bottle bill,” to boost recycling and actually reduce plastic pollution, and called for bans on single-use plastics. Without an agreement to include provisions to significantly reduce plastic pollution, Udall voted “No” on S.1982, which passed the committee on a voice vote.

Udall has unveiled a “discussion draft” of the landmark legislation he is developing with U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.)to tackle plastic waste pollution, which includes a national beverage container law and bans on single-use plastics, among other provisions.

“I appreciate the bipartisan momentum to address our plastic waste crisis. America and the world have a serious problem with plastic pollution. The United States alone discards about 30 million tons of plastic each year. Globally, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escape into the oceans from coastal nations. That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world,”said Udall during the committee meeting, holding a bag of plastic trash found on the nearby streets of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. “But the plastic crisis goes far beyond our oceans. Plastic pollution is everywhere -- in our rivers, landscapes and neighborhoods. Microplastics are even found in rainwater above 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains. And new research has found that human beings are ingesting about a credit card’s worth of plastic each week, mostly in the form of microplastics from drinking water and other sources. So I agree with the environmentalists who have written that Save Our Seas 2.0 does too little to tackle this problem. We need to step up and enact real solutions.”

During the business meeting, Udall offered an amendment to establish a national beverage container deposit law that would significantly increase the return of plastic bottles and aluminum drink cans that too often end up in landfills, incinerated, or as litter in our neighborhoods and waterways. Udall ultimately withdrew the amendment because there was not an agreement to accept it and it was outside the jurisdiction of the Commerce Committee. Udall will continue push his amendments as S.1982 moves to the Senate Floor with other components of the Save our Seas 2.0 bill from the Environment and Public Works and Foreign Relations Committees. 

Udall also modified other amendments he proposed and they were incorporated into the Sullivan Substitute amendment in order to make modest improvements to the underlying bill.

Udall’s amendments aimed to reduce plastic waste and strengthen the Save Our Seas 2.0 bill, which comes in response to the growing problem of plastic ocean pollution.

The full remarks, as delivered, are below:

Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, I would like to speak on the Save Our Seas bill and call up Udall #1 amendment. First, I appreciate the bipartisan momentum to address our plastic waste crisis. America and the world have a serious problem with plastic pollution. The United States alone discards about 30 million tons of plastic each year. Globally, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escape into the oceans from coastal nations. That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.

But the plastic crisis goes far beyond our oceans. Plastic pollution is everywhere -- in our rivers, landscapes and neighborhoods. Microplastics are even found in rainwater above 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.  And new research has found that human beings are ingesting about a credit card’s worth of plastic each week … mostly in the form of microplastics from drinking water and other sources.

So I agree with the environmentalists who have written that Save Our Seas 2.0 does too little to tackle this problem. We need to step up and enact real solutions.

Here’s one: the Udall #1 amendment proposes a nation-wide beverage container deposit law. It includes a 10 cent deposit on all beverage containers … like these soda and water bottles that were found on the streets of the Capital yesterday.

A container deposit law would significantly reduce plastic pollution and help local taxpayers. It would collect a clean stream of plastic and other material for recycling. Why do we need a container deposit program?

Well, the cold, hard fact is that recycling is not working effectively in the United States today. The U.S. recycling collection rate of plastic bottles is less than 30 percent. That means close to 7 billion pounds of plastic bottles were littered or went into a landfill in 2016 – the year with the most recent data.  Let me say that again—nearly 7 billion pounds of plastic bottles were not recycled in 2016 

Just like these bottles.

And who foots the bill? Taxpayers and local governments.  Millions of public dollars spent managing plastic waste.

Let’s compare that with states that have a container deposit law.  In 2018, California saw 78 percent of eligible containers returned.  In the same year, Oregon reported 75 percent of all plastic beverage containers were recycled.   And New York’s redemption rate averaged 73 percent from 1983 to 2007. In fact, 47 percent of all beverage containers recycled in the U.S. in 2017 came from only 10 states—those that have bottle bills.

My amendment is also good economics and taxpayer friendly. The companies that sell and profit from these beverage containers should help local governments cover the cost of collecting and recycling them. The beverage producers would include a minimum 10 cent bottle deposit on each beverage container. That deposit would then be added to the price of the container at checkout and refunded when the bottle is returned.

I realize this amendment is not in the Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction.  And so I plan to withdraw my amendment and will not ask for a vote today. But I am working on a comprehensive solution to our plastic waste crisis that should be ready soon.  My bill will include a container deposit law and other robust measures to reduce plastic manufacture and consumption.

I appreciate Senator Sullivan and the bill sponsors working with me on modest improvements from some of my other amendments. But I plan to record myself as a “no” on today’s vote.  And want to work with the sponsors as they put this bill together with the Environment and Foreign Relations Committee bills for the floor.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to withdraw Udall #1.