WASHINGTON – The Interior Department announced on Wednesday that it will phase out the sale of plastic water bottles and other single-use products in national parks and other public spaces over the next decade in a bid to tackle a major source of U.S. pollution.
An order issued by Home Secretary Deb Haaland calls on the department to reduce the purchase, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products and packaging to 480 million acres of state-managed land, with a goal of phasing out the products by 2032. The order directs the department to find alternatives to single-use plastics, such as compostable or biodegradable materials or 100% recycled materials.
“As steward of the nation’s public lands, including national parks and national wildlife refuges, and as the agency responsible for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats,” the Home Office is “uniquely positioned to do better.” for our planet,” Haaland said in a statement.
The order is essentially reversed: a Trump administration policies 2017 stopped national parks from banning the sale of plastic water bottles. Only a fraction of the more than 400 national parks, but some of the most popular ones like the Grand Canyon, had implemented such a ban.
Environmental groups hailed the Biden administration’s announcement, which proponents and some Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for for years.
“Our national parks are by definition protected areas — ones that Americans have loved for their natural beauty and history for over a century — and yet we have failed to protect them from plastic for far too long,” said Christy Leavitt, Plastics campaign manager for the conservation group Oceana.
Haaland’s order “will stem millions of pounds of unnecessary single-use plastic in our national parks and other public areas where it can pollute those specific areas,” Leavitt said. The group urged Interior to act quickly to make changes to reduce single-use plastics.
According to Oceana, a November 2021 national poll conducted by Ipsos found that more than 80% of American voters would support a decision by the National Park Service to end the sale and distribution of single-use plastics in national parks.
Haaland said the plastic order is especially important because less than 10% of the plastics ever produced have been recycled and recycling rates in the US are falling as China and other countries have stopped accepting US waste.
Inside managed properties generated nearly 80,000 tons of municipal solid waste in fiscal 2020, the department said, much of it plastics.
Of the more than 300 million tons of plastic produced each year for a variety of uses, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, and plastic accounts for 80% of all marine litter found in surface waters to deep-sea sediments, the said Department.
Many marine species ingest or become entangled in plastic debris, causing serious injury or death, and plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism and contributes to climate change, the department said.
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