Lawmakers, Advocates Introduce ‘Plastic-free Water for Illinois Platform’

Lawmakers, environmental groups, and consumer advocates bring the fight for plastic-free water to the General Assembly

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Today, State Rep. Ann Williams, State Sen. Melinda Bush and the Illinois Environmental Council announced the introduction of a comprehensive package of legislation tackling the pervasive problem of plastic pollution from single-use plastics in Illinois waterways and the Great Lakes. If enacted, Illinois will lead the Great Lakes region in reducing single-use plastic, eliminating dangerous polystyrene and protecting public health.

“All of the research points to the extreme risk of plastic pollution in our waterways and it is time to effect meaningful change to protect our resources and communities,” said Rep. Williams. “I am proud to introduce this important and timely legislation today and I urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to join me and support access to clean water for all Illinoisans.”

Chief Sponsors of the platform, Rep. Williams and Sen. Bush, were joined by organizations in support of the ordinance including the Illinois Environmental Council, Shedd Aquarium and Bring Your Own Glen-Ed.

“We now know that we are all eating, drinking and breathing microplastics everyday. Though we don’t yet fully know the long-term health risks that will result, I for one, do not want us to continue stacking the odds against our children’s health,” said Sen. Bush.

The ‘Plastic-Free Water for Illinois’ platform will reduce plastic pollution by eliminating significant sources of single-use plastic, advancing sustainable solutions to keep drinking water clean and ecosystems healthy.

The platform tackles the plastic pollution crisis in Illinois by:

  • banning polystyrene beginning 2022,
  • requiring single-use plastic serviceware be provided only by request or at a self-serve station,
  • creating a statewide container deposit, similar to Michigan and 10 other states,
  • incentivizing state procurement of recyclable and compostable materials, and
  • establishing a statewide $.10 carryout bag fee.

“Clean water is a basic human need, which is why we’re taking this fight for plastic-free water to the General Assembly,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “Policies that aim to reduce single-use plastics have been successful in other states, and it’s time for Illinois to step up and lead the Great Lakes region in reducing harmful plastic pollution in our communities.”

Plastic pollution is a global problem plaguing waterways locally. Regionally, nearly 22 million pounds of plastic enter our Great Lakes waterways each year, contaminating the source of drinking water for millions of Illinoisans and ecosystems for wildlife.

“Cheap plastics that we often use only for moments are with us for lifetimes, and are now showing up in our drinking water, our food, and even our bodies,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “We applaud these lawmakers for proposing common-sense solutions that will cut the glut of plastics littering our neighborhoods and polluting our water supply, and call on the General Assembly to enact them this Spring.”

“Those of us working on plastic reduction at the local level know we cannot recycle our way out of our plastic pollution problem. We have alternatives to single use plastics, and it’s time to use them across the state,” said Sheila Voss, community organizer with Bring Your Own Glen-Ed.

Plastics in our rivers, lakes and drinking water do not decompose, but instead, break into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics that are often mistaken as food by wildlife and are found in our drinking water.

“All species on Earth are threatened by plastic pollution, humans included,” said Andrea Densham, senior director of conservation policy at Shedd Aquarium. “Tackling plastic pollution takes the best science and concerted action by consumers, industry and government. Since 2017, Shedd Aquarium has been working with 21 other aquariums across the nation as the Aquarium Conservation Partnership to speak up for wildlife and drive actions that safeguard their futures from harms such as plastic pollution. Together we’ve engaged over 600 businesses to reduce their use of plastic, including many in Illinois. Today, Shedd Aquarium links arms with state leaders to continue to protect aquatic wildlife in our backyard.”

Wildlife and clean water are critical to the Great Lakes outdoor economy, supporting a $7 billion fishery, $16 billion tourism industry and over 1.6 million jobs within the region. Safeguarding the Great Lakes region’s wildlife and economies requires action on single-use plastic at the state level.

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