CHICAGO, IL – With eyes on Paris for the recently completed crucial second round of global plastics treaty negotiations, groups in Illinois and across the Great Lakes are excited to celebrate the work that has been done closer to home to reduce the production of single-use plastic. This year, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Ocean Conservancy and Illinois Environmental Council secured significant wins at the statehouse in Springfield that will advance the effort to reduce plastics while increasing access to water and promoting reuse.
The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up the 2023 session in late May by passing several bills addressing plastic production and reduction; improving reuse systems; and providing better data to assist future policymaking:
- SB 58 bans the state from purchasing polystyrene foam foodware. Styrene, a building block of polystyrene, is likely a human carcinogen, creating health risks in production, use and disposal. Additionally, polystyrene is not recyclable, increasing the challenges of an overburdened waste system by plastic pollution. The bill also requires all state agencies to develop plans to reduce purchasing of single-use plastic.
- SB 1715 will increase the number of bottle-filling water fountains across the state, providing no-cost water for many more people and decreasing reliance on single-use water bottles that contribute to plastic pollution.
- HB 2086 will allow customers to refill their own containers with ready-made food at restaurants and retailers. Increasing reusable systems is the most effective and efficient way to reduce plastics and associated greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a safe, circular economy.
- SB 1563, requires the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to report on the potential impacts of microplastics in drinking water in Illinois.
- SB 1555 requires the Illinois EPA to create a statewide needs assessment for packaging and paper products. This is a critical step towards establishing comprehensive extended producer responsibility in Illinois focused on holding producers accountable and achieving source reduction.
Advocates were also able to prevent HB 1616 from advancing. This bill would have allowed for a dangerous and toxic pyrolysis plant to side-step the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s standard permitting process to be built in an already overburdened minority community near Joliet, IL.
Dr. Anja Brandon, associate director of U.S. plastics policy at Ocean Conservancy and an environmental engineer, notes, “Now is the time to pursue a single-use plastics source reduction target in the Great Lakes that’s in line with the global goal of a minimum 50% reduction by 2050. These recently passed bills will reduce literal tons of plastic pollution while also decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. We applaud the Illinois legislature for these steps forward and hope to see more headway next session to meet the urgency of this moment.”
“We are proud to link arms with our partners from across the Great Lakes and the country in order to build smart and sustainable solutions that will reduce plastic production, support regenerative solutions, advance environmental justice by reducing toxic pollution and improve our community’s health. This session in Illinois represents just the start of the work needed to be done to reduce plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. We are all ready to keep the work moving forward together,” said Andrea Densham, senior strategic adviser for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
“This year’s plastic reduction victories represent some of the most significant environmental legislative progress we made during this session, and it’s a sign that our years of education and mobilization have built momentum for change,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “Make no mistake; we have plenty of work to do to realize the scale of policy progress we truly need, but it’s important to stop and celebrate significant wins, like halting HB1616, for example– an objectively good thing for the already disproportionately polluted communities in the Joliet area who would have borne the brunt of new toxic pollution emitted by the proposed chemical recycling plant.”
Global and regional efforts to reduce plastic are critical as the connections between climate and plastic production become clearer. Already, plastics are responsible for 3-4% of global greenhouse gas emissions; if they continue to grow, this will triple by 2050. In addition, the health impacts of these emissions from extraction to disposal of plastics are disproportionately borne by historically marginalized communities, making this an environmental justice issue.
ABOUT OCEAN CONSERVANCY
Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit www.oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
ABOUT THE ILLINOIS ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL
Since 1975, the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) has worked to safeguard Illinois—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends by building power for people and the environment. Representing over 100 environmental organizations in the state, IEC carries out its mission to advance public policies that create healthy environments across Illinois through education, advocacy and movement building.
ABOUT THE ALLIANCE FOR THE GREAT LAKES
The Alliance for the Great Lakes is a nonpartisan nonprofit working across the region to protect our most precious resource: the fresh, clean, and natural waters of the Great Lakes. For more information, visit www.greatlakes.org.