S. Himmelstein | June 20, 2022

The fate of picnic baskets laden with plastic utensils and the availability of single-use plastic products at concession stands in U.S. national parks is finite. The U.S. Department of the Interior (USDI) plans to phase out the use of single-use plastic products and packaging in 423 national parks by 2032.

The policy aligns with a December 2021 executive order by President Biden that calls for federal agencies to minimize waste and support markets for recycled products. Plastic waste is a priority environmental problem and as its production grows at a rapid rate, increasing amounts of plastic can be expected to enter protected areas. Less than 10% of the plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled, and recycling rates are not increasing.

Bags made of paper, bioplastics and composite can replace single-use plastic bags, as can reusable cloth or thicker plastic alternatives. Bottles made of bio-based plastic, glass and aluminum, and laminated cartons can replace single-use plastic bottles, as can reusable bottles made of glass, aluminum or stainless steel. Similar materials can replace single-use plastic in food packaging, beverage cups, tableware and other products used in USDI facilities.