The ban applies to 480 million acres of national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands administered by the US Dept. of the Interior, which includes NPS.
Between now and 2032, single-use plastics will be replaced by paper, bioplastics, composite, reusable cloth, glass, aluminum, stainless steel, or any other compostable or recyclable materials.
The announcement was made in honor of World Ocean Day in June.
More than 300 million tons of plastic are produced in the U.S. each year, with 14 million of them ending up in the ocean.
Plastics make up 80% of the debris found in oceans, the department said in a press release.
There, marine life can accidentally ingest them, leading to injury or death.
The U.S. is one of the world’s largest producers of plastic waste. The country’s recycling rate fell to between 5% and 6% last year, according to estimations in a report from environmental groups Last Beach Clean Up and Beyond Plastics, as some countries stopped taking U.S. waste exports and waste levels reached new highs.
The plastics ban is part of a December 2021 executive order by President Joe Biden “to reestablish the federal government as a leader in sustainability,” he said.
In 2011, some national parks instituted a similar ban, to reduce waste and recycling costs, but it was stopped six years later by Donald Trump when he was president in support of the bottled water industry, which opposed the ban.
The Interior Department said it produced nearly 80,000 tons of municipal solid waste in fiscal year 2020.
“The Interior Department has an obligation to play a leading role in reducing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and our climate,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said. “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 uniquely positioned to do better for our Earth.”
“Plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change,” the agency said.
Plastic pollution is widespread around the world, with trillions of small plastic pieces found in the oceans, where much of the waste ends up. Plastics are so pervasive they have been found in the lungs of people and in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica.
The U.S. is one of the world’s largest producers of plastic waste. The recycling rate fell to between 5% and 6% last year, according to estimations in a report from environmental groups Last Beach Clean Up and Beyond Plastics. It’s because of several factors – including increased use of single-use plastics for safety during the height of the pandemic, and because some countries stopped taking U.S. waste exports.
Less than 10% of plastics are recycled, and rates of recycling have not been increasing, according to the Interior Department.
The rate of recycling has hovered at 34 to 35% from 2010 to 2017, and dropped slightly to 32.1% in 2018, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
There was a similar trend in the use of plastics from 2014 to 2018, with very little change year to year. In that period, Americans wasted an average of 34.8 million tons of plastic.