US to ban single-use plastics on public lands by 2032
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The United States will phase out single-use plastics in national parks and other public lands over the next decade, President Joe Biden's administration announced Wednesday as part of actions on World Oceans Day.
This will include the sale and distribution of plastic bags and bottles as well as food wrappers, beverage cups and other tableware, according to an order by the interior secretary Deb Haaland.
Government departments have one year to develop plans to switch over to alternatives, such as biodegradable and compostable materials, and then have until 2032 to complete the transition.
"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, we are uniquely positioned to do better for our Earth," Haaland said in a statement.
Plastic waste is devastating for fish and other wildlife, with oceans bearing the brunt of the impact since they are downstream of all pollution sources.
Of the more than 300 million tons of plastic produced every year, at least 14 million tons end up in the ocean, the interior department said.
While the plastics industry has attempted to portray the problem as something that can be overcome through recycling, only nine percent of all the plastic the world has ever made has been recycled, and recycling rates are stagnant.
Christy Leavitt, plastics campaign director for non-profit Oceana, welcomed the administration's announcement.
"The Biden administration is taking a big step to protecting our oceans from single use plastic," Leavitt told AFP.
Oceana and 300 other nonprofits, organizations, and businesses had sought the action in a letter to the Biden administration last year.
The order will cover the nation's 423 national parks but also wildlife refuges and other lands and waters managed by the interior department: in total 20 percent of the United States' land, which hosts some 400 million visitors annually.
"Ten years is a long time, but we are hopeful that they will take steps along the way to reach that end goal," said Leavitt.
A number of larger national parks have already moved toward eating areas with reusable tableware and refillable water stations, she added.
"We are hopeful that ultimately not just our national parks and other public lands but cities and counties and states around the country can move towards those reusable and refillable systems."
The White House also announced a new national marine sanctuary to preserve the Hudson Canyon, an ecological hotspot located approximately 100 miles off the coast of New York and reaches depths of 2.5 miles, as well as the start of efforts to create an Ocean Climate Action Plan.