March 13, 2024

Reps. Levin and Peltola Introduce Bill to Protect Waters from Plastic Pollution

Washington, D.C. – Reps. Mike Levin (CA-49) and Mary Peltola (AK-At Large) today introduced the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act, HR 7634, to address plastic pollution in our nation’s waterways and along our coasts.

This bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a rule that prohibits the discharge of plastic pellets and other types of plastic into our nation’s waters. Currently, EPA does not have an established federal rule to address plastic pellets specifically, and most states do not have meaningful regulations to combat plastic pollution.

“My district is home to a beautiful coastline that supports the local economy, bolsters tourism, protects wildlife, and is enjoyed by residents and countless visitors,” said Rep. Levin. “Pollution caused by plastic pellets is a major threat to our waters and our overall health. We must do everything we can to protect our oceans and ensure their survival for future generations to enjoy.”

“Alaskan communities are only healthy when our water is healthy. From crab to kelp and salmon, Alaskans’ meals and paychecks rely on unpolluted water,” said Rep. Peltola. “Most of the plastic found in the Arctic is no larger than the size of a grain of rice. Microplastics, in particular, are so widespread that they’ve been discovered at the North Pole in the muscle and blubber of walruses harvested by Alaskan hunters. The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act is an important step in reducing how much plastic enters the environment and waterways.”

Plastic pellets are a form of microplastics. When dumped or spilled into the ocean and our waterways, these pellets absorb toxic chemicals and attract harmful bacteria that threaten marine life. Seabirds, fish, and other wildlife often mistake pellets for food, ingesting these hazardous substances. For these animals, pellets can block their digestive tracts, threaten their lives, and ultimately even contaminate the food humans eat. The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act would prevent further ecological and public health harm from plastic pollution by requiring the EPA to issue a ruling addressing plastic pellets.

“For too long, our nation’s beaches, wetlands and waterways have been smothered in small plastic pellets as a result of pollution from the plastic production industry,” said Jennifer Savage, Surfrider’s Senior Manager, Plastic Pollution Initiative. “The Surfrider Foundation strongly supports the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act, a simple, straightforward bill that will close a loophole and hold polluters accountable for the litter they create in our coastal environment.

“Plastic pollution is everywhere. Fragments have been found at popular fishing spots in Alaska and in Pennsylvania’s top trout streams, on our beaches and in the Great Lakes,” said Lisa Frank, Executive Director of Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office. “When animals ingest this plastic, they can get sick and even die. We should do everything we can to stop this pollution, but shockingly, some companies still dump and spill large quantities of plastic pellets into our waterways. That’s why Congress must pass the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act.”

“California’s coasts are home to amazing wildlife, from whales to sea turtles and adorable otters. Unfortunately, they’re also plagued by plastic pollution,” Laura Deehan, State Director at Environment California. “We need to put wildlife over waste and stop plastic pollution, including pellets, which are now the second-largest source of microplastic in the ocean. California is working to solve this problem, but we can’t do it alone. Congress should pass Rep. Levin’s Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act.”

“Tiny plastic pellets, also known as ‘nurdles,’ are a type of microplastic that can resemble fish eggs and are often ingested by seabirds, turtles, fish, and other marine life,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, Associate Director of U.S. Plastics Policy at Ocean Conservancy. The Clean Water Act is meant to protect our nation’s waters from pollution but right now, it is failing to protect us from this pernicious and pervasive plastic pollution. We applaud Rep. Levin for introducing the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act to change that by keeping deadly nurdles out of our ocean. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this commonsense legislation in our fight against the ocean plastics crisis.”

"To this day, the United States has no regulation in place to prevent the 230,000 tons of nurdles that are lost to the environment each year. It's time that we hold polluters accountable for the harm they cause. The 5 Gyres Institute commends California Congressman Mike Levin for taking action with the introduction of the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act,” said Paulita Bennett-Martin, Senior Federal Policy Lead and Program Strategist, 5 Gyres Institute.

"Oceana applauds Rep. Mike Levin, Rep. Mary Peltola, and their colleagues for addressing plastic pollution by introducing the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act," said Christy Leavitt, Plastics Campaign Director at Oceana. “Because of their small size, plastic pellets can easily spill or wash into rivers, lakes, and the ocean, and are extremely difficult to clean up. These little pieces of plastic add to the massive amounts of plastic pollution inundating our oceans and fresh waterways, causing harm to communities and wildlife alike. This bill would prohibit the discharge of plastic pellets and keep this problematic plastic pollution out of our waterways and environment. We call on Congress to pass this much-needed bill.”

Senators Durbin (IL), Merkley (OR) and Cardin (MD) introduced the Senate version of the bill in July 2023.

To view the full bill text, click here.

Joining Reps. Levin and Peltola as original cosponsors of this bill are Reps. Huffman (CA-2), Quigley (IL-5), Lee (CA-12), Stansbury (NM-1), Bonamici (OR-1), Grijalva (AZ-7), Kilmer (WA-6), Nadler (NY-12), Schakowsky (IL-9), Pingree (ME-1), Schiff (CA-30), Connolly (VA-11), Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Cohen (TN-9), Matsui (CA-7), Garcia (IL-4), Norton (DC-At Large), Carbajal (CA-24), Sherrill (NJ-11), Schrier (WA-8), Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Torres (NY-15), Raskin (MD-8), Nickel (NC-13), Carson (IN-7), Garcia (TX-29), Sanchez (CA-38), Soto (FL-9), Ramirez (IL-3), Tokuda (HI-2), Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Barragán (CA-44), Hoyle (OR-4), Blumenauer (OR-3), Jacobs (CA-51), Davis (IL-7), Vargas (CA-52), Thompson (CA-4), Sarbanes (MD-3), Pocan (WI-2), and Kim (NJ-3).