Earlier this month, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed an order that requires federal land managers to phase out single-use plastic products by 2032. The decision directly supports President Biden’s executive order that calls on federal agencies to improve their waste and recycling management while also reversing a 2017 Trump Administration policy that prevented national parks from banning the sale of plastic products.
“The United States is one of the world’s largest producers of plastic waste and other types of waste, and the U.S. Government is a large consumer with significant market power and the ability to drive change through its waste reduction policies and procurement patterns,” Secretary Haaland stated in the new order. “Plastic waste is a priority environmental problem.”
Haaland states in the order that the Department manages over 480 million acres of public lands, 2.5 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf, and 750 million acres of marine national monuments. That’s 20 percent of the United State’s land and includes 2,000 locations that host nearly 400 million visitors a year, making it challenging to manage waste.
“Environmentally-preferable alternatives to single-use plastic products have been developed in recent years and are readily available,” Haaland stated. “…giving the Department a range of options to consider in this effort to account for the variety of geographic locations and social contexts in which Departmental facilities operate.”
According to the Interior Department, almost 80,000 tons of municipal solid waste was generated on Interior lands in the 2020 fiscal year, with plastics making up a significant portion of that total.
“Less than 10 percent of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled, and recycling rates are not increasing,” Secretary Haaland stated. “…the Department has an obligation to play a leading role in reducing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and our climate.”
Cover photo of Glacier National Park by TheBigMK courtesy of Getty Images