Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act Reintroduced in Senate With Minimal Changes, New Sponsors

Apr 7, 2021

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) reintroduced the "Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act" on March 25th, taking the reins from recently retired Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) to champion this legislation.

Largely unchanged, the bill seeks to limit waste from plastic products by phasing out unnecessary single-use plastic products, reducing plastic packaging, and holding manufacturers responsible for reducing plastic waste and recycling. Wipes are designed and utilized as a single-use product, and most are made from plastics. 

Wipes have been a major focus of NACWA’s Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign due to the problems caused when wipes are flushed into the sewer system. These problems include the clogging of pumps and other wastewater equipment and the formation of “fatbergs” when wipes combine with fats, oils and grease. 

NACWA worked with the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) and other organizations on the language in the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act to address the labeling of flushable and non-flushable wipes. The Act would require that all non-flushable wipes be labeled with a “Do Not Flush” logo according to the  2nd Edition Code of Practice: Communicating Appropriate Disposal Pathways for Nonwoven Wipes to Protect Wastewater Systems (COP), published by the wipes industry associations.

Legislation on the state level has gained momentum as well. After Washington became the first state to enact a wipes labeling law in March 2020, the number of states that are interested in similar laws has increased. NACWA is now aware of six states with active legislation California (AB818), Illinois (SB294), Massachusetts (HD1625), Minnesota (HF914), and Maine (HD1625). 

Additional provisions heighten awareness surrounding environmental justice, emerging contaminants (including PFAS), and recycled content standards. 

For more information about NACWA’s work on the wipes issue, please contact Cynthia Finley

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