CHICAGO — U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced a bill to keep companies from dumping plastic pellets into waterways.

If passed, the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prohibit the discharge of plastic pellets and other pre-production plastic into waterways from facilities and sources that make, use, package, or transport pellets, according to a press release from the senator’s office.

Durbin discussed the proposal in Chicago Wednesday following a tour of the city’s Museum of Science and Industry’s new exhibit: The Blue Paradox. The exhibit is designed to show the effects of human plastic waste and its impact on the ecosystem.

View the entire press conference in the video above.

The aforementioned press release further states:

“Plastic pellets, or nurdles, are the pre-production building blocks of nearly all plastic goods.  Due to the low cost of producing these pellets, they are often washed down drains or dumped if they come in contact with other materials like dust and dirt.  They are also often spilled both in the shipping and production process—eventually finding their way into our waterways, including the Great Lakes.

“Each year, it is estimated plastic pellet pollution contributes significantly to the 22 million tons of plastic that end up in the Great Lakes.  The shorelines of the Great Lakes are littered with plastic pellets, with 42 of 66 beaches on all five Great Lakes recording significant pollution levels of these pellets (19.1 pellets per m2).  These pellets not only are showing up on beaches, but are building up on the bottom of the lakes and are being consumed by fish and marine life. Plastic pollution has become so prevalent, a recent study showed that the average person ingests approximately five grams of plastic each week – the equivalent of a credit card.  

“Approximately 250,000 tons of plastic pellets end up in the oceans annually. It is estimated that by 2025, more than 4.5 billion pounds of plastic packaging will be used annually.”