Report raises concern about plastics in Chesapeake Bay

Posted 11/29/22

ANNAPOLIS — The Chesapeake Bay Commission has released its latest policy report, completed in partnership with the Chesapeake Legal Alliance, titled “Extended Producer Responsibility for …

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Report raises concern about plastics in Chesapeake Bay


ANNAPOLIS — The Chesapeake Bay Commission has released its latest policy report, completed in partnership with the Chesapeake Legal Alliance. It's titled “Extended Producer Responsibility for Plastics Packaging: Opportunities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”

It addresses the problem of plastic pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Worldwide, plastic production has increased exponentially over the last 60 years. In the United States alone, over 35 million pounds of plastic waste is generated per year and only 10% is recycled.

In the environment, larger plastics break down into smaller particles known as microplastics that can enter the food chain.

The new report examines policy considerations that must be solved to address the proper disposal of plastics packaging, creating better and more effective recycling systems while lessening the burden of pollution on the Chesapeake Bay.

By detailing the successful efforts of other states, the report explores the opportunity that “Extended Producer Responsibility” presents for a comprehensive statewide or regional approach to waste resulting from plastics packaging.

“The impacts of plastics are being felt in our waters, in our wildlife and on our land,” said Virginia Del. David Bulova (37th District), a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, “but the Chesapeake may be even more vulnerable to plastics pollution than many other watersheds.

“Scientific studies have found that most of the plastics entering the Chesapeake’s waterways are not flushed out into the ocean. Given these unique and critical circumstances, it is vital that management measures are put into place to reduce the number of plastics entering our environment.”

“Extended Producer Responsibility encourages the use of environmentally friendly, easily recyclable materials, helps consumers understand what and how to recycle, and offers local governments and taxpayers relief from the financial burden of unstable recycling markets,” said Molly Brown, senior attorney and director of Community Legal Education for Chesapeake Legal Alliance.

“In recognition of the serious and detrimental impacts of plastics pollution, as well as the added challenge of limits set by other countries for the importation of used plastic, holding the producers of plastic packaging accountable for its end-of-life management is an increasingly popular policy globally,” said Maryland Del. Sara Love (District 16), a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

“A regional program, such as one focused on the Chesapeake Bay, would offer producers stable and uniform requirements, costs, and expectations.”

The full report is available at

Last year companion bills were introduced into the Maryland General Assembly calling for a statewide recycling needs assessment to be conducted by the Department of the Environment every 10 years, and for producers of certain packaging materials to individually, or as part of a producer responsibility organization, to submit a producer responsibility plan to the Department of the Environment. Neither bill, however, got out of committee.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state body advising the general assemblies of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Comprised of state legislators, gubernatorial representatives and citizens, the Commission works to advance policy, at all levels of government, to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.  By law, the Commission also serves as a liaison to the U.S. Congress.

The Chesapeake Legal Alliance (CLA) is the only regional organization solely dedicated to providing free legal services to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. CLA is a trusted source for innovative legal strategies to solve the Bay’s most complex problems.

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