Department of the Interior to Phase Out Single-Use Plastic in National Parks

The Ban Protects Public Lands and Waters But Doesn’t Go into Effect Until 2032

Image Caption: Image Courtesy of MarkPiovesan/Getty

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) plans to eliminate single-use plastic from all national parks and other public lands by 2032. The announcement came last week via an executive order issued by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in honor of World Ocean Day. The decision comes in response to a similar proclamation from the White House, which calls on all government agencies to minimize waste and find ways to operate in a more eco-friendly fashion.

Seeking Alternatives

Secretary Haaland directed the DOI and its subsidiary agencies—including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Department—to seek alternatives to single-use plastics. The goal is to replace plastic bottles, straws, cups, cutlery, and food containers with items made from 100% recycled materials or those that are easily compostable or biodegradable.

“The Interior Department has an obligation to play a leading role in reducing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and our climate,” Haaland said in a press release. “Today’s Order will ensure that the Department’s sustainability plans include bold action on phasing out single-use plastic products as we seek to protect our natural environment and the communities around them.”

national parks ban single-use plastics

Image Courtesy of wingedwolf/Getty

More Sustainable Options

The executive order drew praise from conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, and fans of the national parks. But the DOI’s timeline for phasing out single-use plastics has faced some criticism, too. With microplastics now permeating water sources, food, and even the air we breathe, critics say that a decade is too long to wait to ban these harmful materials.

The ten-year timespan does allow the Department to work with vendors and concessionaires to find alternatives to single-use plastics. It also means the DOI can develop robust recycling programs and explore ways of using more sustainable materials. According to the press release announcing the ban, less than 10% of the plastics ever produced have been recycled, making this change a challenging one.

You can read the announcement in its entirety on the Department of the Interior website.

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