Nessel joins coalition calling for Biden admin. to do more to combat plastic pollution ⋆

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday announced she was joining a coalition with 13 other attorneys general urging the Biden administration to bolster its strategy to combat plastic pollution. 

In the letter, Nessel and attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Vermont called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a broader and more robust plan to improve plastic waste management, and to reduce the production of plastic materials and decrease reliance on them.

While the nation’s strategy for handling plastic has focused on recycling and cleaning up plastic pollution, Nessel and the other attorneys general called on the EPA to expand its approach and to intervene at every stage of the life cycle of plastic waste. This includes implementing measures to reduce the production of new plastic.

The letter recommended the EPA not classify processes outside of mechanical recycling as recycling unless the process meets rigorous standards that protect environmental and human health, and promote circularity, which means keeping products and materials in circulation for as long as possible.

The letter also offered specific recommendations, including:

  • Reducing plastic production as part of global, U.S., and state greenhouse gas emissions targets. 
  • Protecting communities from new petrochemical plants or expanding capacity at existing plants. 
  • Prioritizing funding innovative strategies to reduce overall plastic use and plastic packaging needs and promote the reuse of materials.
  • Combat deceptive environmental marketing, including deceptive use of the recycling symbol, by adopting and administering a national plastics product labeling standard.
  • Broadening the scope of the plastic waste reduction strategy to include assessments of the fast fashion industry, which produces and sells cheap polyester clothing meant to be minimally worn and disposed of quickly, resulting in a massive volume of textiles ending up in landfills.

In their letter, the attorneys general also warned about the disproportionate effects of plastic production on low-income communities of color. 

“We, the States, are deeply concerned about the harms suffered by our residents living in communities near plastic-making infrastructure including fossil fuel extraction sites, refineries, and plastic and chemical manufacturing plants. Such communities are often impoverished communities of color and disproportionately bear the brunt of the plastic pollution crisis — breathing in the worst air, drinking the worst water, and tragically, developing cancer at higher rates,” the letter reads. 

In addition to concerns of plastic waste and production, Nessel’s office warned against microplastics, tiny pieces of degraded plastic which have been found in drinking water, food, air, and even human blood and living lung tissue that can have significantly harmful environmental effects and are likely harmful to humans.

“All Michigan communities deserve to be safe from the harmful effects of plastics pollution,” Nessel said in a statement. “Our defense of Michigan’s natural resources includes protecting them from the chemicals produced by the manufacture and disposal of plastics. I stand firmly with my colleagues in asking the Biden administration for a robust plan that responds to the plastics pollution crisis and reduces our nation’s global plastics footprint in meaningful ways.”

authored by Kyle Davidson
First published at

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