Dear Secretary Haaland,
We are writing to applaud you for your work on the Secretarial Order 3407 and urge the expedited phasing out of single use plastics, specifically in our National Park Service. By phasing out the sale and distribution of single-use plastic, NPS will be able to greatly reduce plastic pollution within our nation's most beloved places while also advancing President Biden's executive order on federal sustainability (EO 14057).
Since 1916, NPS has safeguarded the invaluable natural and cultural resources of America's national parks and shared them with millions of visitors every year. Unfortunately, these treasured places are often inundated with plastic pollution. With more than 300 million people visiting America's national parks each year, park staff manage approximately 70 million tons of trash. In 2011, the National Park Service issued Policy Memo 11-03 that allowed parks to voluntarily eliminate the sale of disposable plastic water bottles. Unfortunately, this policy was subsequently reversed in 2017 by the Trump administration, even after NPS found that the plastic water bottle elimination programs were widely successful. A 2017 NPS report demonstrated that before its reversal, this policy diverted between 1.3 million and 2 million disposable plastic water bottles from entering our national parks, saving up to 111,743 pounds of plastic and 141 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This report clearly demonstrates the positive implications of reducing plastic bottle waste and exemplifies the significant positive impacts a phaseout of single-use plastics can have in our national parks.
A recent national poll shows that 82% of voting Americans support ending the sale and distribution of single-use plastic in our national parks. Last July, over 300 American businesses and organizations sent you a letter requesting that the NPS adopt a new policy to phase out single-use plastics in national parks. Additionally, there is growing support in Congress for legislative solutions which would direct NPS to develop a plan for phasing out the sale and distribution of single-use plastic, such as the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act (H.R. 5533/S.2960) which currently has over 50 cosponsors in the House.
While we commend your leadership on these issues, we urge you to prioritize the phase out of single use plastics in NPS. We understand the 10-year timeline may be important when considering current contractual obligations and appropriate alternatives for plastic items you currently use. We urge you to move as swiftly as possible to implement the phase out plan within NPS, where the preservation of unimpaired natural resources is central to its mission. We must protect our national parks from plastic pollution if we hope to share these special places with generations to come. It is imperative that NPS prioritizes a policy to eliminate the use of single-use plastics in our national parks. Thank you for your service in protecting our national treasures. We look forward to working together in preserving our parks for generations to come.