White Paper: The Policy Implications of a Plastics User Fee & Recycling Program

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Below is an excerpt from out latest White Paper: "The Policy Implications of a Plastics User Fee & Recycling Program"


Plastic litter is an especially concerning form of litter for at least three reasons. First, it takes much longer to decompose than most other types of litter; in a landfill, the estimated time for plastic to decompose is between 100 and 400 years.[i] Second, it poses a severe threat to marine life and marine-dependent wildlife, such as seabirds and sea turtles.[ii] Third, its tendency to end up in waterways can lead to storm drainage problems.


This last point deserves special emphasis. Over the last few years, Texas has had to deal with catastrophic flooding, and all of the human misery and economic damage it causes. While this flooding was primarily attributable to natural disasters (particularly Hurricane Harvey), flooding can also be caused by faulty drainage systems. As the Environmental Protection Agency has stated, storm drains “help prevent flooding by draining rainwater and melted snow off of streets and other paved surfaces.”[iii] Similarly, a study on storm drainage in developing countries has remarked that “Storm water runoff control is the crucial purpose of any urban drainage system.”[iv] Given that storm drains are critical for handling stormwater, it is not surprising that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants are sometimes used for storm drain improvements to mitigate flooding.[v] FEMA also advises homeowners to clear storm drains of debris to minimize the potential for flooding.[vi]


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[i] Environmental Protection Agency, “Environmental Factoids,” available at https://archive.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/smm/wastewise/web/html/factoid.html [ii] Environmental Protection Agency, “Impacts of Mismanaged Trash,” available at https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/impacts-mismanaged-trash [iii] “What Is a Watershed?” available at https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/KSMO_StormdrainStewardship.pdf [iv] Nadeesha Chandrasena, et al., “Blocked Drains Syndrome: Physical Degradation of the Storm Drainage System in a Compact City,” Advance Science Letters February 2017), available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315741507_Blocked_Drains_Syndrome_Physical_Degradation_of_the_Storm_Drainage_System_in_a_Compact_City [v] Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Storm Drain Improvements Increase Flood Protection in La Mesa, CA” (September 5, 2019), available at https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2019/09/05/storm-drain-improvements-increase-flood-protection-la-mesa-ca [vi] Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Protect Your Home from Future Flooding” (June 25 2018), available at https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2018/06/25/4363/protect-your-home-future-flooding