January 14, 2019
Federal Actions to Address Marine Plastic Pollution: Reducing or Preventing Marine Plastic Pollution Through Source Controls and Life-cycle Management
Publishers: The Surfrider Foundation, UCLA Wells Environmental Law Clinic
Global plastics pollution is on the rise. Despite efforts by the federal, state, and local governments to addressaspects of this issue, the problem remains significant. Not only does plastic pollution raise environmental andpublic health concerns, but it has serious economic impacts as well: plastic pollution impacts our food supplyand the tourism industry along America's over 12,000 miles of coastline.
In 2015, through a bipartisan effort, Congress successfully passed legislation regulating plastic microbeads—the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015—recognizing the significant harms they pose to the environment andto wildlife. By the time federal legislation was passed, cities and states, including California, New York, andIllinois, had already taken action on banning plastic microbeads, creating a hodgepodge of regulation andprompting federal action. The tourism, fishing, and cosmetics industries had expressed support for state andlocal bans and, in some cases, had already instituted private efforts to eliminate the use of plastic microbeads.The Microbead-Free Waters Act was a strong federal solution that stabilized conditions for manufacturers,protected industry, and prevented further environmental harms from microbeads. Moreover, as the first country to ban plastic microbeads, the Act established the United States as a global leader in reducing plastic pollution.