How we can keep plastic pollution out of our national parks

Beyond plastic


The last thing you want to see when visiting a national park is pollution from plastic products we don’t even need.

And since a mere 9% of plastic gets recycled, there’s really only one way to protect our communities and environment from this harmful and pervasive form of waste: Use less of it in the first place.

Instead of creating unnecessary waste pollution in our national parks, let’s move beyond plastic. We’re urging U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to eliminate the sale and distribution of single-use plastics in national parks.


Our national parks deserve better

Every year, the National Park Service contends with around 70 million pounds of waste — the same weight as 155 Statues of Liberty. And that number doubles when you take into account waste managed by park concessionaires.

Single-use plastics are a huge part of the problem. A 2013 review of Yellowstone National Park found that plastic water bottles represent half of the park’s entire solid waste load.

If you believe it’s absurd that these kinds of wasteful, unnecessary items are still sold in our national parks, you’re not alone. A growing number of environmental and public interest organizations are joining the call to move our national parks beyond plastic.


We don’t have to keep drowning in single-use plastic

Most of us are familiar with some of the worst consequences of our ever-growing plastic pollution crisis. Plastic is flooding our oceans, piling up in landfills, and littering our communities and open spaces at breakneck pace. Even worse, plastic production emits health-harming and climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Almost 40% of all plastic produced is for single-use items designed to be used briefly and then tossed — but which then can persist in our environment for hundreds of years. That’s a huge part of the problem which we can tackle simply by getting rid of these unnecessary, throwaway items.

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy. Moving beyond single-use plastic will take concentrated effort from citizen advocates like you and me to convince our leaders to act. And it will take a relentless “one step at a time” mentality, starting with this and other efforts to keep plastic pollution out of our national parks and open spaces.


Aaron Colonnese

Content Creator, Editorial & Creative Team, The Public Interest Network

Aaron writes and designs materials with the Creative Team for The Public Interest Network for U.S. PIRG. Aaron lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, and spends his spare time playing drums and going for long walks.

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