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AG Nessel Joins Coalition in Calling for Broader, More Robust Federal Strategy to Fight Plastic Pollution Crisis

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced joining a coalition of 14 attorneys general in urging the Biden administration to adopt a more comprehensive strategy to combat the plastic pollution crisis. Plastic does not fully degrade, instead breaking down into smaller pieces called microplastics, which have been found in drinking water, food, air, and even human blood and living lung tissue. Plastic manufacturing itself is highly hazardous, with the pollution burden disproportionately affecting low-income communities and communities of color. In the letter addressed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the coalition called on the agency to implement a broader and more robust plan that would not only improve plastic waste management, but would also dramatically reduce the production of plastic materials and decrease our reliance on them. 

As the global production of plastics has skyrocketed, so has the resulting waste, which pollutes America’s land and water. But the dangerous impacts of plastics begin well before they are consumed and turned into waste. Plastic manufacturing plants are often located in or near low-income communities and communities of color. Such communities bear the brunt of the plastic pollution crisis — breathing in the worst air, drinking the worst water, and tragically, developing cancer at higher rates.  

“All Michigan communities deserve to be safe from the harmful effects of plastics pollution,” Nessel said. “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.” 

The nation’s strategy in dealing with plastics has historically focused on improving recycling and cleaning up plastic pollution when it is already too late. In the letter, the coalition urges the EPA to broaden its approach and implement aggressive interventions at every stage of the plastic waste life cycle, including measures to dramatically reduce the production of virgin plastic, i.e. new, unused plastic. The letter also recommends that EPA not consider any process other than mechanical recycling to qualify as “recycling” unless the process meets rigorous standards that promote circularity and protect the environment and human health.  

Specific recommendations by the coalition include: 

  • Reducing plastic production as part of global, U.S., and state greenhouse gas emissions targets. 
  • Protecting communities from new petrochemical plants or capacity expansion at existing plants. 
  • Prioritizing funding innovative strategies that reduce overall plastic use and plastic packaging needs and that promote the reuse of materials.
  • Combat deceptive environmental marketing, including the deceptive use of the chasing arrows symbol, by adopting and administering a national plastics product labeling standard.
  • Adopting stringent criteria for processes other than mechanical recycling to qualify as “recycling” that protect the environment and human health.
  • 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 frequently. 

In issuing the letter, Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. 

A copy of the letter can be found here.


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