In the next 10 years, the National Park Service will phase out its use of single-use plastics in all national parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton, the U.S. Department of Interior announced on Thursday.
Secretary Deb Haaland issued an order mandating a reduction in the procurement, sale and distribution of single-use plastics and packaging by the department by 2032. The order is part of President Joe Biden’s executive order that called on federal agencies to minimize waste and support markets for recycled products.
Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that while the group supports the goal of reducing waste, it was “disappointing” to see the DOI announce a blanket policy on a specific material. He said doing so could be counterproductive.
“In most applications, plastic products are the least environmentally harmful option, as long as they are disposed of properly,” Seaholm said. “We want all of our nation’s parks to remain pristine and would welcome the opportunity to discuss improving recycling infrastructure in parks as a better approach to sustainability.”
Under the order, visitors will be allowed to bring the containers into national parks, but they will not be used for goods sold within the park.
Haaland’s order also directed the DOI to identify nonhazardous, environmentally-preferable alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as compostable, biodegradable or 100% recycled materials.
Single-use plastic products include plastic and polystyrene food and beverage containers, bottles, straws, cups, cutlery and disposable plastic bags that are designed or intended to be used once and discarded.
According to National Geographic, every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans from coastal nations. Many of the additives in plastic make it stronger and more flexible, but they also can extend the life of the product, which by some estimates can take at least 400 years to break down.
Nat Geo also reported that half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years. Less than 10% of all plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled.
Officials from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks refused to comment for this article. Cowboy State Daily was unable to connect with the Wyoming chapter of the Inland Ocean Coalition, an organization dedicated to plastic pollution reduction.