10/13/2017 - Federal Policy Analysis - Regulatory Tracker

Single-Use Plastics Phase Out on Public Lands

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Quick Take

The Dept. of Interior is working to phase out the sale of single-use plastic on public lands including national parks.

Why it Matters

Plastic waste threatens the environment, wildlife, and human health. Americans buy nearly 30 billion plastic water bottles annually, and the majority of those bottles end up in landfills, contributing to the plastic pollution crisis.

Current Status

On June 8, 2022, the Biden administration announced in Dept. of Interior Order 3407 that it would phase out the sale of single-use plastics at national parks, refuges, and other public lands, making up 480 million acres in the United States. This multi-year phase-out process will conclude by 2032.

Timeline of Events

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December 14, 2011 The National Park Service issues a memorandum encouraging individual parks to ban the sale of disposable plastic water bottles within the parks.

Trump Administration
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August 16, 2017 The memorandum is discontinued, and the National Park Service no longer discourages the sale of disposable plastic water bottles.

September 13, 2017 US Representative Mike Quigley introduces the “Reducing Waste in National Parks Act” (H.R. 3768), which seeks to reinstate the voluntary ban.

September 22, 2017 In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the National Park Service publicly releases a report from May 2017 that evaluates the success of the voluntary ban. It determines that the policy reduced plastic use by up to 111 million pounds, prevented up to 141 million tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted, and conserved a significant amount of energy and landfill space.

September 10, 2019 US Representative Mike Quigley reintroduces the “Reducing Waste in National Parks Act” (H.R. 4236) seeking to encourage recycling and to reduce plastic bottle use in national parks.

BIDEN Administration
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June 8, 2022 Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland signed Dept. of Interior Order 3407, phasing out the sale of single-use plastics at national parks, refuges, and other public lands in a process that will run through 2032. The order was issued pursuant to Executive Order 14057, which included a focus on sustainable acquisition and procurement.  The phase-out will be led by the Department’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

Nov. 1, 2022 A report from Trashblitz that analyzed National Park waste found that 81 percent of all waste found in U.S. national parks and public lands was plastic.