In recent years the EU and Canada have enacted bold legislation to ban single-use plastics. Is the EPA under the Biden administration likely to follow suit? Can we expect the US to engage in international plastics agreements going forward?
FORMER US DIPLOMAT
The Biden Administration is under intense pressure from both sides of the debate, with environmentalists demanding a ban like the EU’s and the hydrocarbon and consumer manufacturing sectors lobbying against it. Democrats in Congress are pushing a ban in the proposed Clean Future Act, but that is likely to fail. Biden’s other option is to use executive authority to direct the EPA to regulate categories of plastics on the basis of health and safety concerns, specifically on the chemical processes (“pyrolysis” and “gasification”) that produce plastics, which is likely to happen in the next six months. The Biden Administration is unlikely to pursue negotiations on an international agreement to ban single-use plastics in the next year, as the Senate would reject such an agreement.
DISTRICT DIRECTOR OF A STATE SENATE
Biden Administration would certainly entertain joining efforts to ban single-use plastics if his presidency wasn’t already hanging in the balance. Given his limited remaining political capital currently, he cannot make a move that will be unpopular among many voters, particularly in swing states, as the 2022 midterms approach. Draconian measures of outright bans have shown to harm small businesses and lower-income communities. Such a ban would immediately damage the economy, which Biden cannot afford. Rather it may be expected to expand investment in programs to handle and reduce the amount of waste single-use plastics create. Private industries, such as the beverage industry, are already exploring these options, Biden may invest in those efforts instead.
FORMER CSR DIRECTOR AT MAJOR APPAREL & FOOTWEAR MULTINATIONAL
Biden has declared that he wants plastics to be more regulated. This will require the passing of the Break Free from Plastics Pollution Act and addressing the issues in the Presidential Plastics Action Plan. With other domestic policies ahead on the “to do” list and the influential oil lobby to negotiate with it, it is likely to take more than this first term in office to accomplish deep regulation in single-use. Lastly, the US may take some small steps to start to work on international agreements but it is unlikely that this will dictate speeding up the US’ own regulation in the short term.