To look further into the issue of plastic waste in this country, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recently commissioned a new report, “Public Opinion Surrounding Plastic Consumption and Waste Management of Consumer Packaging.” The public opinion survey, conducted by Corona Insights, aimed to understand the public’s awareness of the issue, current behaviors around usage and recycling, and attitudes toward plastic in the United States.

The survey found broad agreement across political affiliations and geographies for the need to not only reform our waste management system, but for a reevaluation of the ways plastic is produced. 86% of Americans agree we need to transition from an economy that throws things away to one that emphasizes reuse and recycling.

One step in the right direction is the reintroduction of The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. This legislation would establish a nationwide Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program that would ensure producers of packaging pay for systems to adequately handle waste and recycling. EPR and related principles, if done right, can reduce the overall materials footprint, incentivize brands to use recycled content, provide needed investment for national recycling infrastructure, and address long standing issues related to environmental justice and consumer access to recycling.

In response to the survey release and the reintroduction of legislation, WWF issued the following statement from Roberta Elias, director, policy and government affairs on the legislation:

“We live in a world where plastic waste is everywhere. It’s in our neighborhoods, in our oceans and forests, and leaking into nature. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that when it comes to tackling this issue, we are seeing that public demands are clear, and they want plastic waste to be addressed.

“This legislation will bring our packaging and recycling systems into the future. The waste our nation creates is overwhelming recycling systems and consumers alike. Producers of packaging and consumer goods need to be responsible for improving our national recycling infrastructure, and 68% of the public agrees.

“From national mechanisms for Extended Producer Responsibility to new studies examining microfiber pollution to important protections for communities that address the raw impacts of plastic production and disposal, this legislation is a step in the right direction.”