On Tuesday this week (28 September), congressional Democrats Tom Suozzi and Sheldon Whitehouse proposed a new bill that would put a 10c per pound tax on ‘virgin’ plastics in 2022, increasing to 20c in 2024. Under the proposed law, manufacturers, producers and importers of plastic resin for single-use products such as beverage containers, bags, and food service products would be faced with the fee.
Companies using virgin resins for products such as medical containers and personal hygiene products, as well as those using it to store hazardous items would be exempt from the tax.
“Plastic waste is destroying our environment. We must end the flood of non-recycled plastic waste,” said Suozzi. “This bill with Senator Whitehouse is a commonsense way to create an economic incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic instead of creating more new plastic waste.”
“We need to end the cascade of plastic pollution into our environment. That pollution chokes our oceans, hastens climate change, and threatens Americans’ well-being,” Whitehouse added. “The plastics industry should cover the cost of its damage.”
The proposed measure has sparked backlash amongst petrochemical industry members, including the American Chemistry Council, who say it will raise costs for consumers and could be particularly damaging for low-income families. In an open letter, they label the tax ‘punitive, discriminatory and regressive’, and last month launched an ad campaign opposing the measure.
By contrast, environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF and the American Sustainable Business Council signed a letter in support of the motion, writing:
“A virgin plastic fee…will level the economic playing field between virgin and recycled plastic, incentivise reuse and recycling of plastic, and will raise revenue to invest in needed recycling and waste management infrastructure.”
“In our current political moment, we cannot afford to pass on the opportunity to create change in upcoming legislative packages, including reconciliation,” they add.