Policy to Keep Single-Use Plastics Out of U.S. National Parks Introduced

In an effort to keep single-use plastics out of National Parks, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) and eleven Senate colleagues have introduced the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act. The proposed legislation would restore Obama-era guidance prohibiting the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in National Parks, as well as “the sale and distribution of other disposable plastic products to the greatest extent feasible.” Earlier this year, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL-05) introduced a companion bill also calling to end the sale of single-use plastic bottles in parks.

Under President Obama, a similar policy had prevented the sale of an estimated 1.3 and 2 million single-use plastic water bottles in National Parks. This policy was reversed by the Trump administration in 2017.

Plastic pollution threatens our right to live in healthy communities and ability to enjoy the beauty of our national parks. Single-use plastic production threatens our nation’s most special places, and inaction to protect these spaces is unacceptable if we want to ensure our treasured national parks are safeguarded for generations to come.

— Jeff Merkley, Senator, Oregon

The action by policymakers follows a campaign led by Oceana, which sent a letter from more than 300 organizations and petition signed by thousands of individuals urging U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to ban the sale of single-use plastics on America’s public lands in 2021. 

Each year, it’s estimated that the National Parks Service has to manage about 70 million pounds of wasteful trash—that’s 155 times the weight of the Statue of Liberty. 

Eliminating single-use water bottle sales at National Parks can make a significant impact in reducing pollution in and around the parks, and also reinforce reuse and refill among the public and employees who visit and work in the parks.

Many aquariums and zoos ironically have stronger policies than National Parks to minimize the sale and distribution of single-use plastic items to protect animals and the artificial environments. It is essential that we also prioritize protecting the natural living wetlands, beaches, mangroves, grasslands, and forests protecting our parks’ wildlife and pristine places. There is no place for plastic in our National Parks, and with the introduction of “Reducing Waste in National Parks Act,” one source of plastic pollution—sale and distribution of single-use plastic items to visitors—will be significantly reduced.

— Jackie Nuñez, Plastic Pollution Coalition Advocacy and Engagement Manager

Take Action

With a United Nations Plastic Treaty now on the table, it’s important to tell the world’s biggest plastic polluter, the United States, to take a stronger stance on what could be a global, legally binding agreement. Make your voice heard, and help advocate for real solutions. 

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