EU Common Charger Rule
The European Union formally adopted (October 4) a plan to establish a common charging standard for most electronic devices. The standard would be USB Type-C, and would apply to devices such as mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld video game consoles and portable speakers. The intent of the proposal is to significantly reduce wire-generated e-waste, as well as reduce costs and improve simplicity for consumers.
Under the agreement, by the end of 2024 all battery-powered portable devices sold in the EU must have a USB-C port or rely entirely on wireless charging. Makers of laptops will have until 2026 to implement the standard.
Samsung already uses USB-C charging ports on its iPads and laptops, but Apple currently does not.
Public Lands and Plastics Phase Out
The Interior Department announced (June 8th) that it has established a goal to eliminate single-use plastics on Federally-managed lands by 2032. The component parts of the Department are instructed to develop specific plans and timelines for purchasing and deploying sustainable products consistent with this goal. Sustainable products are those that are “nonhazardous, environmentally preferable alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as compostable or biodegradable materials, or 100 percent recycled materials.”
Final plans of the agency components should be in place one year from now according the Department's guidance.
International Treaty on Plastics
The fifth session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-5.2) agreed to a resolution to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee this year with the goal of putting together a legally-binding agreement on plastics, particularly ocean-bound plastic, by the year 2024. Actions under any treaty will attempt to address plastics management “from source to sea,” in other words, the whole plastics product lifecycle from production through disposal and reduction of the leakage of existing plastic currently in the global ecosystem.
The Biden Administration backs this treaty, with the Secretary of State expressing support in 2021, calling on countries “to develop and enforce strong national action plans to address this problem at the sources."
California Microplastics Strategy
California issued the nation’s first state microplastics strategy (February 2022) developed by the State’s Ocean Protection Council. The strategy includes a two-track approach: solutions and science. The “solutions” track includes twenty-two specific near-term actions, for example:
Requiring that single-use foodware and condiments be provided only upon request.
Prohibiting the sale and distribution of expanded polystyrene foodware and packaging by 2023.
Expanding the current statewide microbead ban to include microplastics that are intentionally added to specific consumer products, such as cosmetics, household and industrial detergents, and cleaning products by 2023.
Promoting or requiring the sale and use of ENERGY STAR condenser dryers and washing machines with filtration rates of 100 microns or smaller and develop a program to incentivize post-market retrofits or purchases through rebates and other mechanisms by 2024.
The “science” track includes thirteen research-oriented measures supporting data collection and analysis that will inform potential future actions, for example:
Developing a model microplastics monitoring program with an ongoing integrated statewide ambient monitoring network to quantify microplastic occurrence and effectiveness of management actions for microplastic pollution by 2024.
Developing toxicological studies that provide greater certainty of microplastics risk thresholds for marine life and human health, and determine recommended actions when thresholds are exceeded by 2024.
Creating a source emissions inventory to quantify the most prevalent California-specific sources (i.e., specific materials and products) contributing microplastics into the environment to inform future regulatory action by 2024.
The strategy constitutes a roadmap for the State of California that will require implementing legislative, regulatory, and coordinating actions among State and local agencies and organizations. The group says it expects to evaluate findings from implementation and lessons learned, and to provide additional recommendations to the legislature by December 2025.
Plastics and Producer Responsibility Laws
Two U.S. states have implemented so-called plastics extended producer responsibility laws -- Maine and Oregon. Maine’s law will begin implementation starting this year, though provisions are phased in over the next five years. Maine producers of plastics products will pay into a fund based on the amount and the recyclability of their packaging. Funds will be used to reimburse municipalities for eligible recycling and waste management costs, make investments in recycling infrastructure, and help Maine citizens understand how to recycle.
Oregon’s law went into effect at the beginning of 2022, though provisions are phased in over the next several years. The law requires that producers join and pay a membership fee to a nonprofit Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) that will fund improvements and ensure that collected recyclables go to responsible end markets. Producers will also be required to meet new recycling goals for plastic packaging and food serviceware. Recycling will be standardized and enhanced for rural areas and persons living in apartments.
Infrastructure Act - Ocean Trash
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided supplemental funding of $150 million over five years, including $30 million in 2022 for marine debris, assessment, prevention, mitigation, and removal within NOAA's Marine Debris Program.
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Binational Cooperation on Transboundary Issues in the Tijuana River Basin (Minute 320)
This is an agreement between Mexico and the United States via the International Boundary and Water Commission regarding a general framework for cooperating on water and sanitation matters, particularly with respect to sewage flow and infrastructure needs.
Status: The agreement has been in place since 2015. The United States recently agreed to invest $474 million in infrastructure improvements to address longstanding flow issues that led significant pollution in San Diego's waters, in particular.
Save Our Seas 2.0 Act
Among other things, this law (see the National Law Review) helps strengthen US domestic marine debris response capability by expanding Federal research; creating a Marine Debris Foundation that will manage a genius prize for innovation; enhancing global engagement to combat marine debris, including formalizing U.S. policy on international cooperation and enhancing federal agency outreach to other countries; and funding grants to prevent marine debris.
Status: this law was enacted on December 18, 2020.
National Recycling Strategy
This is the National Recycling Strategy for the United States as developed by the EPA. The strategy is framed around five strategic policy objectives: (1) improve markets for recycling commodities; (2) increase collection and improve materials management infrastructure; (3) reduce contamination in the recycled materials stream; (4) enhance policies to support recycling; and, (5) standardize measurement and increase data collection.
Status: this strategy was adopted on November 15, 2021.