A panel of experts last week made a simple, common-sense recommendation for dealing with the U.S.’s plastic pollution problem: Stop making so much plastic.

“Not producing waste in the first place is the best thing you can do environmentally,” said Jenna Jambeck, a professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Engineering and a coauthor of a high-profile report that was released last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

It’s an idea that environmental activists have espoused for years. Beyond recycling and reusing the 42 million metric tons of plastic that the U.S. tosses out annually, they say, we should reduce the tide of plastic that is manufactured in the first place. Plastic production is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution that harms frontline communities, and plastic waste clogs ecosystems around the world. Making less plastic would help on all three fronts.

Now that the recommendation is coming from the influential National Academies, advocates are hopeful that federal policymakers may give it greater credence, raising a major question: What would a national strategy to phase down the unsustainable production of plastic look like?

Perhaps the most direct route would be to implement a national cap on the production of new — or “virgin” — plastic. According to Paulita Bennett-Martin, federal policy director for the ocean protection nonprofit Oceana, this could involve Congress passing a law that empowers the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to decide on a specific amount of new plastic that the country can produce annually — perhaps by targeting the production of “nurdles,” tiny beads of plastic that form the building blocks for larger products products. Each year, the EPA could gradually ratchet down its nurdles production cap, until by some year — say, 2035 — it would no longer be legal to make products from new plastic.

The benefit of a production cap is that it would cast a wide net, addressing a large swath of the plastic production pipeline through a single policy. And scientists have already advocated for a virgin plastic production cap on a global scale. In a special report published this summer in the prestigious journal Science, researchers called for a “legally binding agreement” to, among other things, phase down the creation of new plastic by 2040. Their recommendation built off of momentum from February’s meeting of the U.N. Environment Assembly, where many governments expressed interest in an international pact to combat plastic pollution.

Read the full article about reducing plastic pollution by Joseph Winters at Grist.