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Plastic Water Bottles to Be Phased Out at National Parks

Sales of plastic water bottles and other single-use plastic products will be phased out in national parks and public lands in the United States over the next decade, the Department of the Interior said this week.

Deb Haaland, the Secretary of the Interior, announced the measure on Wednesday† As the manager of 480 million acres of federal land, she said, the department has a duty to play a leading role in reducing plastic waste, including food and beverage packaging, bottles, straws, cups, utensils and disposable plastic bags.

“As stewards of the country’s public lands, including national parks and national nature reserves, and as the agency responsible for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats, we are in a unique position to do better for our planet,” she said in a statement.

The Interior Ministry order reflects increasing global pressure to tackle plastic waste pollution and the challenges of getting rid of it, as recycling alone, hampered by shortcomings in collection and transportation, has not been enough for the United States to stay ahead of the plastic mountains .

The department acted in response to a executive order of President Biden to reduce waste.

In a first step, the department’s bureaus and offices will have to report on how they will phase out single-use plastic products by 2032, the interior ministry order said. They will also need to come up with ideas to change public behavior, such as adding water fountains and bottle filling stations.

Oceana, a marine conservation organization, estimated that the Department of Interior move would curb “millions of pounds of unnecessary single-use plastic in our national parks and other public lands.”

“Our national parks are protected areas by definition,” said Christy Leavitt, director of Oceana’s plastic campaign. said in a statementand added that “we haven’t protected them from plastic for far too long.”

Disposable plastic water bottles have been a target of policy makers for years. In 2011, the Obama administration encouraged the National Park Service to stop selling it. But the Park Service, under the Trump administration, halted the policy in 2017, saying the ban “the healthiest drink removed” while allowing sweetened beverages and that only about two dozen of the 417 National Park Service sites had adopted it.

The Home Office order is in line with similar measures announced by countries and companies to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in landfills and waterways. Tens of millions of tons of plastic pollute the oceans every year, dramatized by images of marine life being strangled by plastic rings and stories of birds died due to ingestion of plastic waste

Environmentalists, businesses and policymakers have approached the issue from many angles, from cafe counters to legislative halls.

Paper straws have replaced plastic straws in coffee shops and restaurants in Great Britain. Companies have evolved sheets of soap that come in a package to replace detergent in heavy plastic pitchers. Some global hotel chains have phased out miniature toiletries bottles and installed pump dispensers instead. Beverage companies are getting rid of plastic rings that tie six-packs of soda and beer and are replacing them with cardboard.

In Britain, shops charge for plastic bags and authorities have banned the production of products containing plastic microspheres. In April, the government imposed taxable limits on the amount of non-recycled plastic packaging that can be used in a product as an incentive for companies to use recycled materials.

In March, representatives of 175 countries agreed to begin writing a global treaty that would limit the explosive growth of plastic pollution.

The European Union’s ban on single-use plastics, including straws, plates, bags, swabs and utensils – identified as the most common plastic waste on the coast – came into effect in 27 member states last July.

Nearly a year later, despite efforts to adopt a unified approach, compliance is patchy. Industries and manufacturers of affected items have pushed back, said Piotr Barczak, the waste policy officer at the European Environment Agency, a network of environmental organizations.

“In countries where you can no longer buy those items, yes, of course you see a lot less of them on the beaches,” he said. “I wouldn’t put the responsibility or blame on people. It’s up to the authorities to regulate the producers and those who put it on the market. It’s up to the enforcement authorities to check.”

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