Feds move to eliminate plastic bags, containers in national parks

The order will impact Isle Royale, Voyageurs, Apostle Islands and other Interior Department properties.

Voyageurs National Park
Kayakers on Rainy Lake in Voyageurs National Park. The U.S. Interior Department has announced plans to eliminate single-use plastics from national parks by 2032.
John Myers / 2006 file / Duluth News Tribune
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U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday issued an order moving all agency properties to eliminate plastic containers within a decade.

The order impacts all national parks, lakeshores, monuments and other properties operated by the Interior Department.

In the Northland that includes Voyageurs National Park, Isle Royale National Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the Grand Portage National Monument and other heavily visited areas.

Order No. 3407 aims to reduce the "procurement, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products and packaging with a goal of phasing out single-use plastic products by 2032." Those include plastic and polystyrene food and beverage containers, bottles, straws, cups, cutlery and disposable plastic bags that are designed for or intended to be used once and discarded.

The order also directs the department to identify nonhazardous, environmentally preferable alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as compostable or biodegradable materials or 100% recycled materials.


“The Interior Department has an obligation to play a leading role in reducing the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and our climate,” Haaland said in making the announcement, adding that the order “will ensure that the department’s sustainability plans include bold action on phasing out single-use plastic products as we seek to protect our natural environment,”

The U.S. The National Park Service manages an average of nearly 70 million pounds of waste annually. Plastic comprises half of Yellowstone National Park’s waste. According to the nonprofit Environment America group, four out of five surveyed visitors said that they would support banning single-use plastic bottles in parks.

“Single-use products such as foam cups and containers don’t belong in our treasured outdoor spaces. We thank Secretary Haaland for setting an inspiring goal of eliminating plastic waste, but 2032 is too long to wait for plastic-free parks,” said Kelsey Lamp, a campaign director for Environment America. “We urge the Biden administration to put wildlife over waste and move even faster on this excellent initiative.”

Plastic waste is a priority environmental problem, Interior Department officials noted. Less than 10% of the plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled, and recycling rates are stagnant.

The announcement was made on World Oceans Day.

“Plastics, including unnecessary and easily substituted single-use plastic products, are devastating fish and wildlife around the world,” the agency said in the statement. “Of the more than 300 million tons of plastic produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.”

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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