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Interior Secretary will phase out plastic at national parks, will be completely banned by 2032

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland published an order Wednesday effectively banning plastics on public lands completely by 2032.

The order calls for the department to reduce the purchase, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products and packaging on 480 million acres of federally managed lands, with a goal of phasing out the products by 2032. The order directs the department to identify alternatives to single-use plastics, such as compostable or biodegradable materials or 100% recycled materials.

The order comes on World Ocean Day and also exactly six months since President Joe Biden’s executive order for federal agencies to reduce waste and support the recycling market.

“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,” the Interior Department is “uniquely positioned to do better for our Earth,” Haaland said in a statement.

Environmental groups praised the announcement. “Our national parks, by definition, are 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 director for the conservation group Oceana.

Haaland’s order “will curb millions of pounds of unnecessary disposable plastic in our national parks and other public lands, where it can end up polluting these special areas,” Leavitt said. The group urged the National Park Service and other agencies to move swiftly to carry out changes in reducing single-use plastics well before 2032.

Matt Seaholm, who is president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, called Interior’s announcement “disappointing” and counterproductive.

“In most applications, plastic products are the least environmentally harmful option, as long as they are disposed of properly,” said Seaholm, whose group represents the entire plastics industry supply chain. He urged improved recycling infrastructure in parks as “a better approach to sustainability.”

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER

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