Washington — President Joe Bidenannounced a plan June 8 to phase out the sale of single-use plastics and packaging in national parks and other public lands, as part of a broader administration effort to improve the health of the oceans.
The White House said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who oversees national parks, will develop plans to phase out single-use plastics on lands managed by her department by 2032.
"The Department of the Interior will reduce and eventually phase out the sale of single-use plastic products in national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands," the White House said.
The Biden decision, part of climate-related announcements for World Oceans Day, also said the U.S. had joined the United Nations Environment Programme's Clean Seas Campaign on June 3. The program includes efforts to reduce plastics in the oceans.
The new policy for national parks and public lands comes after two efforts by environmental groups in the last year to get the Biden administration to restrict sales of single-use plastics on National Park Service properties.
Bans on single-use plastic water bottles in national parks have been a political hot potato over the last decade.
The environmental groups pushed Biden to overturn a 2017 decision by President Donald Trump's administration, which had prevented national parks from banning sales of plastic water bottles.
Trump's decision, in turn, had reversed a 2011 decision by President Barack Obama, which allowed individual national park sites, on a case-by-case basis, to ban the sale of plastic bottles.
The group Oceana, which led one of the nongovernmental organization petitions last year, said it welcomed Biden's decision.
"The Department of the Interior's single-use plastic ban will curb millions of pounds of unnecessary disposable plastic in our national parks and other public lands, where it can end up polluting these special areas," said Christy Leavitt, Oceana's plastics campaign director. "We urge the secretary and Interior Department to move swiftly to carry out these changes to protect our parks from single-use plastic."
While details have yet to be worked out in the DOI plan, Leavitt said Oceana is "thrilled" the Biden decision goes beyond water bottles and deals with more single-use plastics.
"We are hopeful that they will phase out some single-use plastics quickly and have clear benchmarks between now and 2032," she said.
Oceana pointed to polling it commissioned last year that found that 82 percent of Americans supported having the National Park Service ban selling single-use plastics in parks.
It polled 1,005 people and said 90 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans agreed with NPS doing that.
The DOI plan includes specific timelines for the department to publish its plans, including outlining steps it will take in the next 270 days. It linked the review to a December order from Biden on sustainable government procurement.
The DOI order said "plastic waste is a priority environmental problem" and pointed to United Nations Environmental Programme research that "environmentally preferable alternatives … are readily available."
"Bags made of paper, bioplastics and composite can replace single-use plastic bags, as can reusable cloth or thicker plastic alternatives," DOI said. "Bottles made of bioplastics, glass and aluminum and laminated cartons can replace single-use plastic bottles, as can reusable bottles made of glass, aluminum or stainless steel."
The American Chemistry Council's plastics division said it was waiting to see details of the DOI's decision before commenting.