On World Ocean Day, the Secretary of the Interior issued an order which 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 on Department-managed lands by 2032.
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 percent recycled materials. Single-use plastic products 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.
As stated in the Order:
Plastic waste is a priority environmental problem. Less than 10 percent of the plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled, and recycling rates are not increasing. Plastics, including unnecessary and easily substituted single-use plastic products, are devastating fish and wildlife around the world.
Our ocean is downstream of all pollution sources and bears the brunt of the impacts: 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 percent of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Marine species ingest or are entangled by plastic debris, which causes severe injuries and death, and plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism and contributes to climate change.
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.