Chemical and plastics industry and ALEC conspiring to block communities from acting on plastic pollution crisis
by Perry Wheeler
March 1, 2019
Washington, DC – As communities increasingly take action on the worsening plastic pollution crisis, the chemical and plastics industry and front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have stepped up efforts to protect corporate profits through mass-produced preemption bills meant to “ban plastic bans.” This year, new bills to prevent local action on plastic pollution have been introduced in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Florida, and reintroduced in South Carolina, Utah, and Missouri.
“The industry is desperate to stop progress on plastic pollution,” said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges. “These preemption bills–championed by ALEC, chemical and plastic industry lobbyists, and pro-pollution politicians–must be exposed and countered. Local communities should be able to tackle the plastic pollution crisis in their own cities and states without DC lobbyists parachuting into state capitals to shut them down.”
ALEC has worked side by side with the Plastics Industry Association and its front group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), to push model legislation for legislators to introduce and champion nationwide. This preemption approach has been used to benefit corporations over local communities on other issues including the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and fracking. Statewide preemption laws currently prohibit 70 million Americans in 10 states from enacting bag ordinances to reduce plastic waste and pollution in their communities.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which is a member of ALEC, originally created the American Progressive Bag Alliance (then called the Progressive Bag Affiliates) and played a more active role in lobbying against plastic bans. In 2011, the ACC announced that the APBA was becoming a division of the Plastics Industry Association, which became a member of ALEC in 2013. In recent years, the Plastics Industry Association and the APBA have worked more closely with ALEC to oppose plastic bans across the country. Companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and SC Johnson were listed as members of the Plastics Industry Association as of 2018. While SC Johnson recently stated that it supports plastic straw bans, it is still a member of the association whose APBA division leads preemption lobbying against local plastic pollution ordinances.
The preemption bill in North Dakota was introduced by ALEC’s state co-chair, Dan Ruby, and 5 other members who are closely aligned with ALEC’s priorities. Both the North Dakota and Oklahoma legislation closely track an ALEC model policy that has been used to pass plastic ban preemption laws in other states. The South Carolina and Utah bills that were reintroduced this year do as well. In Missouri, the legislation expands upon its existing preemption law preventing action on plastic bags to now include cups, packages, containers, bottles, and other packaging. Following a year that saw plastic straws explode in the national dialogue, the Florida bill preempts local action against plastic straws, and the North Dakota bill adds new language to ALEC’s previously-used model policy to include straws as well.
On the other side of the issue, Idaho, Indiana, and Florida have introduced bills to remove preemption of local action on plastics. Numerous cities have recently passed or are trying to pass efforts to tackle single-use plastics, including a sweeping effort against the entire throwaway culture in Berkeley earlier this year. Maryland is currently considering a statewide ban on polystyrene foam; California is looking to phase out plastic products that are not recyclable; Illinois is currently considering a checkout bag fee; Maine, Oregon, and Washington are considering statewide plastic bag bans; Hawai’i is considering a bill to ban plastic containers, bags, straws, utensils, and other packaging; and New Jersey is considering a bill that would ban plastic bags, foam containers and plastic straws. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has endorsed a plastic bag ban in her state, and urged a closer look at other single-use plastics.
“As people continue to stand up and fight back against plastic pollution, the chemical and plastics industry will increasingly turn to dirty politics to maintain the status quo,” said Melges. “It’s up to all of us to call out corrupt politicians and replace them with legislators who represent the people, not corporate polluters. And as product companies start working to meet their pledges to reduce their single-use plastic packaging, they will need to take care to ensure the industry associations they support actually share their values.”
For more information on ALEC and Plastics Industry Association lobbying efforts, click here: https://www.asyousow.org/blog/
Contact: Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, P: 301-675-8766