Environmental Bill Links Climate Change to Plastics Lifecycle

By Romero Halloway


Littorary - artistic image of smoke stack emitting air pollution


On Tuesday, March 2, Frank Pallone, Congressman from New Jersey, introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act. The bill is widely recognized as the most comprehensive piece of legislation to directly confront climate change in American history.

“Today’s introduction of the CLEAN Future Act promises that we will not stand idly by as the rest of the world transitions to clean economies and our workers get left behind and that we will not watch from the sidelines as the climate crisis wreaks havoc on Americans’ health and homes,” Pallone said on Tuesday.

The 981-page piece of legislation has captured headlines mostly due to its mandates to move energy and transportation away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy counterparts. The bill advances Biden’s vision of a 100% clean energy electricity sector by 2035 while also moving the transportation sector toward its zero-emission goals. Ultimately, the bill asks the United States to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Our raison d’etre here at Littorary is to create products that not only enhance the consumer experience but ameliorate environmental problems, particularly as it relates to plastic pollution (more about our climate change commitments next month). It is why we are heartened to see that the CLEAN Future Act also addresses the scourge of plastic production and waste ending up in the environment. Despite not receiving the equivalent fanfare, the production and waste reduction goals written into the legislation are equally as important as the other stipulated environmental goals. The bill will introduce new clean air requirements for plastic manufacturing plants, which the legislators identified as a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the bill goes further. It identifies the nation’s current system of plastic waste collection and recycling as outdated and requires producers to do more to minimize the waste they generate. The bill will implement post-consumer recycled content standards to ensure more of the single-use products in circulation are actually recycled. Presently, about 8% of the 380 million tons of plastic the country generates every year is recycled. Most of it ends up in landfills, or worse in the environment. A huge problem is that China, once the primary destination for recycled plastics, outlawed the practice of receiving plastics from overseas in 2018. The U.S. has found other countries to take and recycle their plastic, but many of those nations -- including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material. As such, the  U.S. has relied on countries like Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ghana, Laos, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal, where environmental laws are lax. A great deal of the plastic purportedly headed for recycling plants ends up in landfills or worse, in the environment where it sullies pristine beaches and waterways.

While the bill also calls for the institution of a national bottle deposit program, the problem with plastic waste isn’t inefficient collection, but what is done once it’s collected. It’s why researchers are increasingly calling for alternative materials to be used. Skeptical of incremental improvements to a broken recycling system, Jenna Jambeck, a plastics researcher recently called for a more comprehensive solution to the problem. Jambeck told Plastics Recycling Updates, a trade publication, that upstream product and material choice are keys to plastic waste reduction.

“We should be considering end-of-cycle at the design stage,” Jambeck said.

We here at Littorary are doing just that by crafting and manufacturing a product that leverages our expertise in material science and product design to create better end-of-cycle scenarios.

We are heartily encouraged by the CLEAN Future Act, our nation’s rejuvenated commitment to a future dominated by renewable energy sources and the legislation’s acknowledgement that plastic production and misleading promises about the benefits of recycling are major contributors to climate change and environmental degradation.

Notwithstanding, we believe our role is to create a viable alternative to plastics, particularly as it applies to food and beverage consumption.

Our team is committed to making durable and sophisticated products that rival the convenience of plastics without the environmental burden. We believe technology and design innovations can revolutionize how Americans and the world consume products in concert with the health of the environment. Please stay tuned to our website, blog, and upcoming Kickstarter page as we unveil a product fully capable of providing the convenience and sustainability that will consign the concept of disposable plastics to the garbage heap of history.

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