Significantly Reducing Single-Use Plastic Products in the American Marketplace

Number 2019-07

WHEREAS, while plastics are a convenient, adaptable, useful and economically valuable material, post-consumer or end-of-life (EOL) single-use plastics (SUPs) represent a serious national and global problem due to their abundance, persistence in the environment, risk to wildlife and human health, and economic cost; and

WHEREAS, the full lifecycle of plastic is known to impact the global climate and ecosystems through generation of greenhouse gas (GHG) and other air and water pollution, including the extended residency of plastic residues in the natural environment due to their failure to biodegrade; and

WHEREAS, leakage of an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste into the ocean per year has been found or suggested to impact wildlife through entanglement, digestive tract obstruction, drowning, suffocation, starvation resulting from false feeling of satiation, and toxicity from chemical pollutants adsorbed onto plastic; and has been suggested to impact biodiversity and marine habitats through physical damage to coral reefs and dispersal of non-native (including invasive) species via rafting on floating debris; and

WHEREAS, scientific studies document the toxicity and pathology in fish from absorption of chemical pollutants from plastic fragments, the presence of microplastics in the stomachs and flesh of marine and aquatic fish in the human food chain, and the potential for bioaccumulation and transfer of toxins to humans; and

WHEREAS, the economic cost of littered plastics includes not just the lost economic value of the plastic material, but also the billions of dollars spent annually by American municipalities in plastic debris clean-up and financial losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping industries; and

WHEREAS, recycling does not address the SUP problem at its source; is not a cost-effective solution for many types of plastics; and poses economic, technical, logistical, socioeconomic and even ethical challenges; and

WHEREAS, Reusable and/or non-plastic alternatives are readily available and affordable for many SUP products, including grocery and other carry-out bags, beverage bottles, polystyrene foam containers, plates, cups, utensils, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, and cotton buds; and

WHEREAS, new innovations and technologies are emerging to redesign and produce non-plastic alternatives and bio-based plastic products, create new products from post-consumer plastics, and chemically recycle and de-polymerize / re-polymerize plastics; and

WHEREAS, experience from U.S. municipalities and nations around the world has proven the effectiveness in curbing SUP use of various strategies, including economic instruments (e.g. pricing, taxes & levies), market restrictions (bans), public information and awareness campaigns, extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, or a combination of these; and

WHEREAS, progress toward achievement of any goal for reduction in SUP production, import and sale must be monitored and measurable; and

WHEREAS, during the National Wildlife Federation annual meeting assembled June 6-9, 2018, in Chantilly, VA, affiliates voted to support city/county/state regulatory tools on single-use plastic items in order to drive behavior change related to reducing the use of single-use plastic in our society; and

WHEREAS, there is a need for uniform national policy on SUPs that provides the clarity, certainty and economies-of-scale needed for private-sector investment and innovation in the American market, and reduces uncertainty for business in the face of varied local and state measures regarding sales and distribution of SUP products.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation at its annual meeting assembled June 5-8, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri, hereby supports the development of national policy to reduce by 90% the production, import and sale of single-use plastic (SUP) products for which reusable or non-plastic alternatives are readily available, safe for public health, and affordable by 2025; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the national SUP policy should establish goals for community education, public education, as well as design, development and EOL collection of products that will substitute for SUP products for which no readily available or affordable alternatives exist at this time; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation does not intend to prescribe which strategies currently available or yet to be developed for SUP reduction shall be employed by the federal, state and municipal governments to accomplish this target, however progress toward meeting the 2025 goal must be monitored and measurable; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that while recognizing the need for some SUP products for fresh food packaging, hygiene purposes and medical needs; the National Wildlife Federation does not support exceptions for single-use products made from ‘compostable’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘oxo-biodegradable’ or ‘oxo-degradable’ fossil carbon-based plastics.