On December 1, members of Congress introduced the Protecting Communities from Plastics Act to address plastic production and alleviate its effects on climate change and the environment.
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Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of PLASTICS Industry Association, a trade association representing the plastics industry, released a statement the day of the bill’s introduction and voiced his displeasure.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised by the hyperbole contained in this legislation which causes divisiveness in the efforts to come to solutions to environmental challenges,” Seaholm said.
Seaholm went on to express his desire to work with Congress to reach solutions but criticized the legislation saying it “takes us in the wrong direction” and will “destroy an American industry.”
On December 15, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works’ subcommittee on Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice held a hearing titled “Examining the Impact of Plastic Use and Identifying Solutions for Reducing Plastic Waste.”
Seaholm testified at the hearing before the Senate along with Environmental Health Services founder, CEO and chief scientist Pete Myers, Beyond Plastics president Judith Enck and Nexus Circular co-founder and president Eric Hartz.
Seaholm began his testimony defending plastic use and its impacts. He cited the plastic fibers in airbags, plastic packaging for nutritional services in food deserts, plastic water bottles delivered during hurricanes and pre-sterilized plastic milk collection bags for breast milk storage during the baby formula shortage.
Seaholm added that plastic had become the preferred material in applications because it uses the least resources for manufacturing and transporting.
However, Seaholm included that companies cannot recycle enough plastic materials and products because infrastructure has not kept pace.
While acknowledging that recycling rates in the U.S. are too low, Seaholm presented three policy approaches.
- Increase investments in critical recycling infrastructure to ensure collection, sortation and processing can keep up with the complexities of all materials.
- Promote end-market development for plastic resins to ensure demand remains for recycled materials.
- Encourage innovations in recycling technologies to ensure materials that cannot economically be recovered through traditional methods can still be recycled.
“Perhaps most importantly, I urge Congress to avoid stifling innovation and promising new technologies,” Seaholm said.
During the rounds of questioning, Seaholm was asked to respond to a comment from Beyond Plastics president Judith Enck’s testimony that the U.S. needs to cut plastic production by 50% in the next 10 years. Seaholm denied the goal’s probability and said such a decrease would cripple the country’s supply chains and economic progress.
The proposed Protecting Communities from Plastics Act would create stricter legislation for the plastic production process, including rules for petrochemical plants and the chemical recycling of plastics.
The legislation would also create targets for plastic source reuse and reduction in the packaging and food service industries.