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DENVER -- Even though plastic is filling whales’ stomachs, turtles’ nostrils and waterways across the United States, we are churning out more of it and recycling less of it every year. Each day, on average, U.S. homes and businesses throw out enough plastic to fill up 1.5 football stadiums. We only recycle 8 percent, with the rest ending up in landfills, incinerators or our environment, threatening wildlife and human health.
Hundreds of municipalities and a handful of states have taken action to ban or restrict single-use plastics. Building on that progress, earlier this month, Sen. Tom Udall (NM) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA) introduced the most sweeping federal plastics legislation ever -- a compilation of the most effective policies across the country. But with passage unlikely this year, states and municipalities will need to continue to lead in fighting plastic pollution.
That’s why U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group released comprehensive fact sheets about plastic pollution on Thursday. Banning Single-Use Plastics puts forward specific policies to ban or restrict the worst plastic pollution, including plastic bags, foam cups and containers, and plastic straws and utensils.
“The scope of our plastic problem might be huge, but the answer is actually pretty simple,” said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste Program director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “At the local, state and national level, the most effective way to reduce the amount of plastic flooding into our oceans and overloading our waste management systems is to ban the worst offenders. After all, if your bathtub is overflowing, you turn off the tap.”
In particular, plastic pollution is wreaking havoc on ocean ecosystems. Enough plastic enters the oceans every year to fill five grocery bags stacked on every foot of coastline around the world. That suffocating plastic harms -- and even kills -- marine animals in huge numbers. Almost half of all seabird and marine mammal species have been affected.
“We can’t allow plastic products we use for five minutes to pollute our oceans and endanger our whales, dolphins and sea turtles for centuries,” said Environment America Research & Policy Center Oceans Advocate Kelsey Lamp. “With progress at the national level a way off, we need local and state governments across the country to put wildlife over waste and ban these single-use products."
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