Plastic Reduction Policy Efforts

Litter is a persistent problem in the Chicago-Calumet River system. The Litter Free Task Force collects data during clean-up events and found the overwhelming majority of litter are plastic and polystyerene foam (which is a type of plastic) food-related items. Data below collected and displayed by Task Force member University of Loyola Associate Professor Tim Hoellein.

Our policy work at the local, state, and federal levels seeks solutions to eliminating single-use plastic items. This includes serving on the steering committee of the Coalition for Plastic Reduction (CPR).

City of Chicago

Chicago passed a disappointing single-use plastics ordinance that failed to go far enough to curb plastic pollution and eliminate polystyrene used for foam takeout containers and drinking cups.

The Coalition for Plastic Reduction is reaching out to restaurant owners, restaurant associations, and chambers of commerce to support the industry’s effort to reduce single-use plastics. Restaurants leading the charge can join our network of restaurants advocates.

State of Illinois

Polystyrene foam is considered the worst form of plastic pollution. In August 2023, the Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the State Entities Single-Use Plastic Reporting Act, which will phase out the use of single-use foam foodware for state agencies starting January 2025 and for vendors of state agencies starting January 2026. The law also requires state agencies to track and implement goals to reduce single-use plastic disposable foodware beginning in July 2024. 

In 2022, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill banning single-use plastics in state parks and natural areas which took effect in 2023. State parks are now required to offer either compostable or recyclable foodware. 

Amongst these efforts, Friends and the Coalition for Plastic Reduction have been working on a broader bill to ban foam food containers across the state and will continue this support. 

Federal legislation

The Farewell to Foam Act was introduced in Congress in December 2023 with the support of Friends and more than 130 national, state, and local environmental and wildlife groups, including the Ocean Conservancy and Alliance for the Great Lakes. The legislation seeks to phase out products made with expanded polystyrene, such as single-use foam food containers, by 2026. Click here to show your support. 

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, introduced in February 2020, sought to phase out a variety of single-use items. Unfortunately, the bill lost momentum due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of single-use plastics in response.