In an order signed by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on June 8 to coincide with World Ocean Day, the US Department of the Interior stated that single-use plastic items and packaging will be phased out on public lands by 2032.
Secretary’s Order 3407 aims to reduce single-use plastic product procurement, sale, and distribution on Interior Department-managed land, including national parks, and is part of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14057, which directs federal agencies to reduce waste and support markets for recycled products.
“The Interior Department has a responsibility to take the lead in decreasing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and climate,” adds Haaland. “We are well positioned to do better for our Earth as stewards 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.”
“Today’s order will ensure that the department’s sustainability goals include aggressive action on phasing out single-use plastic products as we attempt to maintain our natural environment and the communities that surround it,” Haaland concludes.
The directive instructs the Interior Department to seek non-hazardous, ecologically preferable alternatives to single-use plastics, such as compostable or biodegradable materials or materials that are 100 percent recycled. Food and beverage containers, bottles, straws, cups, cutlery, and disposable plastic bags are examples of single-use plastic products.
The agency claims that fewer than ten percent of all plastic generated has ever been recycled, and that recycling rates are not growing. Plastics recycling rates in 2018 were under 9%, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and fewer than 5% in 2021, according to a report from the NGO Last Beach Cleanup and Beyond Plastics, an environmental project linked with Bennington College.
Many options are being considered by the Interior Department to “account for the heterogeneity of geographic locations and social environment in which departmental installations operate.” It states that single-use bags can be replaced with paper, bioplastic, or composite bags; single-use bottles can be replaced with bio-based plastic, glass, aluminum, or laminated cartons; and single-use food packaging can be replaced with comparable material.