Sales of plastic water bottles and other single-use plastic products will be phased out in national parks and on public lands across the United States over the next decade, the Interior Department said this week.
Deb Haaland, the interior secretary, announced the move on Wednesday. As manager of 480 million acres of federal land, he said, the department has an obligation to play a leadership role in reducing plastic waste, including food and beverage containers, bottles, straws, cups, utensils and shopping bags. disposable plastic.
“As the 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, we are in uniquely positioned to improve our Earth. he said in a statement.
The Interior Department order reflects a growing global push to address plastic waste pollution and the challenges of disposing of it, as recycling alone, hampered by shortcomings in collection and transportation, has not been enough for the United States to stay ahead of the mountains of plastic. .
The department acted in response to an executive order from President Biden to reduce waste.
In a first step, department offices and offices will need to report how they will phase out single-use plastic products by 2032, according to the Interior Department order. They will also be asked to come up with ideas on how to change public behavior, such as adding water fountains and bottle filling stations.
Oceana, a marine conservation organization, estimated that the Interior Department move would curb “millions of pounds of unnecessary disposable plastic in our national parks and other public lands.”
“Our national parks, by definition, are protected areas,” Oceana plastic campaign director Christy Leavitt said in a statement, adding that “we have failed to protect them from plastic for far too long.”
Disposable plastic water bottles have been a target of policymakers for years. In 2011, the Obama administration encouraged the National Park Service to stop selling them. But the Park Service, under the Trump administration, discontinued the policy in 2017, saying the ban “eliminated the healthiest drink” while allowing sweetened beverages and that only about two dozen of the 417 National Park Service sites allowed it. they had adopted.
The Interior Department order is in line with similar measures that countries and companies have announced to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and waterways. Tens of millions of tons of plastic pollute the oceans each year, dramatized by images of marine life strangled by plastic rings and accounts of birds that have died from ingesting plastic debris.
Environmentalists, businesses, and lawmakers have tackled the problem from many angles, from coffee shop counters to legislative halls.
Paper straws have replaced plastic ones in Britain’s cafes and restaurants. Companies have developed soap sheets that come in a package to replace laundry detergent in heavy plastic jugs. Some global hotel chains have phased out miniature toiletries bottles, installing pump dispensers instead. Beverage companies are getting rid of the plastic rings that hold soda and beer six-packs together, replacing them with cardboard.
In Britain, shops charge for plastic bags and authorities have banned the manufacture of products containing plastic microbeads. In April, the government imposed taxable limits on the amount of non-recycled plastic packaging that can be used in a product as an incentive for companies to use recycled materials.
In March, representatives of 175 nations agreed to begin drafting a global treaty that would curb the explosive growth of plastic pollution.
The European Union’s ban on single-use plastics, including straws, plates, bags, cotton swabs and utensils, identified as the most common plastic waste on coastlines, came into force last July in its 27 member countries.
Nearly a year later, compliance has been patchy, despite the effort to achieve a unified approach. Industries and manufacturers of affected items have pushed back, said Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Office, a network of environmental organisations.
“In countries where you can’t buy those items anymore, yes, of course you see a lot less of it on the beaches,” he said. “I wouldn’t put the responsibility or blame on people. It is up to the authorities to regulate the producers and those who put it on the market. It is up to law enforcement authorities to control it.”