Huffman, Whitehouse, Merkley, Welch Urge Strong, Binding International Plastics Agreement Following INC-4

April 28, 2024

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Peter Welch (D-VT) today urged for a strong, binding international agreement to curb plastics after attending the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) in Ottawa, Canada.

“In Ottawa, we pressed U.S. negotiators to join with the high ambition nations seeking strong standards and accountability to diminish the damaging effects of plastics throughout the plastics life cycle.  This requires rejecting the State Department’s current self-imposed constraints, including their insistence on a consensus agreement that results in voluntary non-binding goals, and their refusal to consider measures beyond current U.S. law.  An effective international agreement cannot be achieved through nebulous promises or pledges.  We need strong, internationally binding agreements with accountability mechanisms in place, and we hope the American negotiators will keep all of that in mind as negotiations continue,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement.

About 450,000,000 tons of plastic are produced every year, a number that is projected to triple by 2050.  The U.S. recycling rate stands at a dismal 9 percent, and less than 10 percent of all plastic waste generated globally has ever been recycled.  Research shows humans swallow the amount of plastic in the typical credit card every week.

As a co-founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus, Whitehouse has played a key role in crafting bipartisan policies to confront the challenges of ocean plastic pollution.  Whitehouse and Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) wrote the bipartisan Save Our Seas and Save Our Seas 2.0 Acts, the most comprehensive marine debris measures ever passed into law. Whitehouse’s REDUCE Act would impose a 20-cent per pound fee on the sale of virgin plastic resin that is used to make single-use plastics.

In his role as the Chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee overseeing environmental justice and chemical safety, Merkley has held a first-of-its-kind series of hearings investigating plastic production and pollution.  Merkley’s hearings have examined: environmental and climate damage from plasticsimpacts of plastics on environmental justice communitiesreuse and refill systemsbeverage container waste, and consumer challenges to recycling.  Senators Welch and Merkley recently introduced the Banning Toxics in Plastic Bottles Act, which would prohibit the sale of plastic beverage containers that contain toxic substances and dyes, and creates an EPA grant fund to provide local waste management and water infrastructure facilities with resources to address plastic pollution.  Merkley, along with Representative Huffman, leads the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, the most comprehensive plan ever introduced in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis that is poisoning our air, water, and land, and disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income Americans.  Representative Huffman also authored the Protecting Communities from Plastics Act, legislation that addresses the plastic production crisis that is fueling climate change and worsening environmental injustice.