Plastic pollution is seen in the news showing littered rivers, beaches and natural recreational areas. The problem’s visibility has drawn greater concern about plastics and calls for short-term fixes like cleanups or recycling, while long-term strategies that aim for prevention receive little attention.

Single-use plastics are heavily used for common everyday use. It’s ironic that a material that lasts forever is discarded as soon as 10 seconds after being used. The recycling industry cannot keep up with the culture of disposables. This is evident with its collection rates as low as 9 percent, while it is expected that plastic production will increase by 40 percent.

Any progress made in reducing emissions that contribute to global warming by shifting our dependency on burning oil for energy could be offset by this increase in plastic production, which will represent emission like that of 295 coal power plants.

Additionally, single-use plastics, a material made from petrochemicals, have over 144 toxic chemical components that are hazardous to human health. Referencing the petrochemical plastic industries in her predominantly African American hometown of St. James, La., Sharon Levigne stated:

“When I was a little girl, I used to play outside with my siblings and neighbors and breathe clean air and drink clean water and my family lived off the land. We were not sick. We did not have to go to the doctor. As industry started to come into my community, I witnessed neighbors getting sick and dying. Our air is now polluted with carcinogens that cause cancer.”

We can do something about all of this. Meaningful solutions are being considered right now in Congress. The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act will tackle the problem from its source to close the plastic tap, by incentivizing to reduce the production of plastics, placing fiscal responsibility on producers to deal with the residue of plastics after consumer use, and in general paving the path for phasing out unnecessary single-use plastics.

Let us not forget that reducing virgin plastics produced from fracked oil supports the mission of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.

When we address the root causes of plastic pollution, we will finally start to see our natural recreational areas free from plastics for good.