Interior Department to Phase Out Single-Use Plastic on Federal Lands by 2032

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The sale of single-use water bottles and other containers will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a new plan from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

On Thursday, Haaland issued an order requiring federal land managers to phase out the sale of single-use plastic products on 480 million acres of Interior Department property by 2032. The move supports a recent executive order from President Biden calling for federal agencies to minimize waste and increase recycling efforts. The order also effectively undoes a 2017 policy, issued by the Trump administration, that stopped national parks from banning the sale of plastic water bottles. 

“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.

The decision is one that leaders in the outdoor industry have consistently rallied for over the past several years. In January, CamelBak president Greg Williamson wrote an op-ed published in Outside Business Journal calling for more water stations on federal lands to slow the sale of plastic water bottles in national park visitor centers and other public facilities.

“The result of a throwaway culture is more plastic waste finding its way into landfills or, worse, into waterways,” Williamson writes in that piece. “Expanding water refilling stations on public lands, along with promoting the practice of reusable water bottles and hydration packs, would give visitors more options for staying hydrated, improve the visitor experience, and reduce waste and trash collection costs.”

In a statement Thursday, Williamson expanded on his earlier comments: “CamelBak’s longstanding mission has been for the world to ‘ditch disposable,’ and this order brings that ideal within reach. We wholeheartedly support Secretary Haaland’s order because reducing plastic use on public lands is good for all stakeholders. Phasing out single-use plastics by 2032 and creating alternative options, such as installing reusable water bottle filling stations, will bring myriad benefits for our people and our planet.” 

According to Interior Department reporting, almost 80,000 tons of municipal solid waste was generated on Interior lands in the 2020 fiscal year. Plastics accounted for 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 wrote in Thursday’s order. “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.”

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