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Huffman, Merkley, Lowenthal, Quigley, Cohen Urge GSA to Reduce Single-Use Plastics Government-Wide

September 22, 2022

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representatives Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Mike Quigley (IL-05), and Steve Cohen (TN-09) led a bicameral group of 58 members of Congress in a letter to the General Services Administration (GSA) in response to the agency’s potential rulemaking focused on reducing unnecessary single-use plastics in government purchases.

“Plastic pollution is one of the gravest environmental threats of our time,” the members wrote. “As the single largest purchaser of goods across the world, the U.S. government has an important opportunity to do the right thing and lead by example. Not only is such a move necessary in light of the climate crisis and environmental justice concerns, a plan to phase out single-use plastics in federal procurement policies also opens the door for a growing community of sustainable product enterprises and a socially and environmentally responsible economy.”

GSA is considering a rulemaking focused on reducing unnecessary single-use plastics in government purchases. In February 2022, 180 groups filed a legal petition filed asking GSA to prohibit agencies from buying disposable, single-use plastics.

The letter was cosigned by Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Karen Bass (CA-33), Donald Beyer (VA-08), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Sean Casten (IL-06), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Sharice Davids (KS-03), Diana DeGette (CO-01) Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Llyod Doggett (TX-35), Veronica Escobar (TX-16) Dwight Evans (PA-03), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-3), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Mike Levin (CA-49), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Stephen Lynch (MA-08) Doris Matsui (CA-06) Betty McCollum (MN-04) Donald A. McEachin (VA-04), Grace Meng (NY-06) Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eleanor Norton (DC) Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Scott Peters (CA-52), Mark Pocan (WI-02) Linda Sánchez (CA-38) John Sarbanes (MD-03) Janice Schakowsky (IL-09) Adam Schiff (CA-28) Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) Thomas Suozzi (NY-03), Mark Takano (CA-41) Mike Thompson (CA-05) Dina Titus (NV-01) David Trone (MD-06) Juan Vargas (CA-51), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07) and Nikema Williams (GA-05) and Senators Richard Blumenthal CT, Richard Durbin (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Edward J. Markey (MA) Alex Padilla (CA), Chris Van Hollen (MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Ron Wyden (OR), Bernie Sanders (VT) , Cory Booker (NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (MA).

The full letter can be viewed here or below:

U.S. General Services Administration

1800 F Street, NW

Washington, DC 20405

Dear Administrator Carnahan:

We encourage you to enact changes required to reduce single-use plastics across federal government purchasing. By phasing out the procurement and use of single-use plastic products, the General Services Administration will greatly reduce plastic pollution while also advancing President Biden’s executive orders on tackling the climate crisis (EO 14008) and federal sustainability (EO 14057).

Plastic pollution is one of the gravest environmental threats of our time. Plastic pollution is driven in large part by the use and disposal of single-use plastics—products that have environmentally sustainable and economically accessible alternatives, including reusable products and packaging.

Plastic production fuels the climate crisis as plastics are derived from fossil fuels, a product of the oil and gas industry. This petrochemical process harms communities with toxic air and water pollution. Once discarded, plastic clogs our rivers and oceans, harms wildlife, infiltrates our drinking water, and persists in the environment for centuries.[1] [2] Plastic is a threat to human health, exposing us to chemicals linked to many of the known public health crises of our time, including many forms of cancer.[3] Therefore, as we transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, we must also transition away from producing wasteful single-use plastics.

A recent national poll shows that 8 in 10 American voters support national action to reduce single-use plastic.[4] There is also growing support in Congress for legislative solutions which would lead to the reduction of single-use plastic pollution, such as the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (H.R. 2238/S.984), The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act (H.R.7861/S.1507), and the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act (H.R. 5533/S.2960). Additionally, on World Oceans Day, June 8, 2022, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland issued Order 3047, which directs the Department of the Interior to phase out purchasing and use of single-use plastics across the agency.

As the single largest purchaser of goods across the world, the U.S. government has an important opportunity to do the right thing and lead by example. Not only is such a move necessary in light of the climate crisis and environmental justice concerns, a plan to phase out single-use plastics in federal procurement policies also opens the door for a growing community of sustainable product enterprises and a socially and environmentally responsible economy.

We commend your first step toward a rulemaking. We urge you to move as swiftly as possible in this rulemaking process to phase out the procurement and use of single-use plastics across the federal government, while understanding the continued need for purchases relevant to disability accommodations, disaster recovery, medical use, and personal protective equipment. Thank you for your leadership in overseeing the delivery of effective and efficient government services for the American people. We look forward to working together in building a more sustainable nation now and for generations to come.

[Members of Congress]

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[1] Borrelle SB, Ringma J, Law KL, et al. (2020) Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution. Science 369: 1515–1518. doi: 10.1126/science.aba3656

[2] Rillig MC, Kim SW, Kim T-Y and Waldman WR (2021) The Global Plastic Toxicity Debt. Environmental Science & Technology American Chemical Society.55: 2717–2719. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.0c07781

[3] Gross L and Enck J (2021) Confronting plastic pollution to protect environmental and public health. PLOS Biology 19: e3001131. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001131

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