Illinois General Assembly Passes Bill to Reduce Plastic Waste and Expand Access to Clean Drinking Water

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation this week to reduce plastic pollution and promote access to clean drinking water. Once signed by Governor Pritzker, SB1715 will require that, in settings where the plumbing code already calls for drinking fountains, the installation of new drinking fountains must include a water bottle filling station.

SB1715, sponsored by Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton and Rep. Jenn Ladisch Douglass, will make it easier for Illinoisans to utilize refillable bottles while staying hydrated and hygienic. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and with overwhelming support in the House by a vote of 85 to 23.

“Not only do all Illinoisans need and deserve clean, accessible and affordable water, but they increasingly seek more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics that help address our plastic pollution problem and the climate crisis,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “In passing SB1715, the Illinois General Assembly embraced sustainable alternatives right along with them, and it’s great to see.”

SB1715 will increase the availability of safe drinking water in Illinois, a state with over 800,000 known lead service lines and even more unidentified to date. Drinking water fountains are a source of public lead contamination in part due to lead service lines, but also because until 2012, brass-lined fountain tanks were allowed to contain lead. Over time, each fountain replaced marks a public health improvement.

“I regularly hear from constituents, particularly young people, who want to know what the legislature is doing to protect our natural resources for future generations,” said State Rep. Jenn Ladisch Douglas, chief sponsor of the bill. “This bill is an excellent example of a smart infrastructure improvement we can make now to everyone’s benefit in the years ahead.”

With the passage of SB1715, the legislature emphasized the importance of protecting our water from plastic pollution and lead contamination by shifting future infrastructure within our buildings to reflect that priority.

“Skilled trades laborers are the ones who carry out new infrastructure improvements that the legislature advances,” said Jim Coyne, business manager for The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 UA. “There is no workforce more ready or able to implement this necessary policy change in the places where safe, clean water should be readily accessible.” 

Every year, 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes, just over half of which end up in Lake Michigan. Experts have called for reduced production of and demand for single-use plastics. Policies like SB1715 make the adoption of reusable water bottles easier for everyone, lessening the demand for single-use plastic beverage containers.

“Our Great Lakes drinking water is one of Illinois’ greatest assets. This bill ensures that everyone has easy access to clean, safe drinking water and can re-fill usable containers. It’s good sense, and it promotes reuse and increases sustainability across the region,” said Andrea Densham, Alliance for the Great Lakes Special Advisor.

“This bill gives Illinoisans more opportunities to reuse their water bottles,” said chief sponsor of the bill, Senator Glowiak Hilton (D – Western Springs). “Making bottle filling stations available across the state not only creates a more sanitary environment, it also helps combat plastic pollution in our communities.”

SB1715 heads next to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk for his signature.


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