EPA Releases Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution

In April, EPA released the Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution. This strategy document, part of EPA’s Series on Building a Circular Economy for All, outlines voluntary actions aimed at eliminating plastic waste released into the environment from land-based sources by 2040. Under this plan, EPA seeks to reduce, reuse, recycle, collect, and capture plastic waste. The draft strategy comprises three primary objectives, each focusing on different aspects of plastic pollution prevention:

Objective A: Reduce pollution during plastic production

This objective emphasizes minimizing pollution throughout the life cycle of plastic products. It encourages manufacturers and consumers to implement upstream actions such as designing products for reuse and recycling, using less impactful materials, and controlling plastic production facilities. Proposed actions include reducing the production and consumption of single-use, unrecyclable, or frequently littered plastic products, as well as minimizing pollution across the entire life cycle of plastic products.

Objective B: Improve post-use materials management

While the National Recycling Strategy identified actions to enhance recycling, this objective expands the focus to other pathways of circularity, including reuse, refill, and composting. Proposed actions involve conducting a study of existing policies and incentives to evaluate their effectiveness, developing or expanding capacity for maximizing material reuse, facilitating effective composting, increasing solid waste collection, enhancing public understanding of plastic mismanagement, and exploring ratification of the Basel Convention for environmentally sound management of scrap and recyclables.

Objective C: Prevent trash and micro/nanoplastics from entering waterways and remove escaped trash from the environment

Proposed actions include implementing policies, programs, and compliance assurance measures to prevent trash and microplastics from entering waterways, improving water management to capture trash in waterways and stormwater/wastewater systems, increasing awareness of the impacts of plastic products in waterways, and coordinating research on micro/nanoplastics.

The agency aims to gauge the importance of different actions, identify key steps and milestones for successful implementation, determine the roles and actions federal agencies should lead, and evaluate potential unintended consequences on overburdened communities. EPA also seeks input on relevant metrics and indicators to measure progress and invites recommendations for additional actions to include in the strategy.