(Reuters) – The agency that oversees one-fifth of U.S. lands said on Thursday that it had finalized plans to phase out single-use plastics in public spaces like national parks and wildlife refuges within the next decade.
The blueprints are a key step toward implementing Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland’s order last year to reduce the procurement, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products and packaging on 480 million acres (194 million hectares) of public lands.
The move aims to tackle a major source of U.S. plastic waste as recycling rates have faltered.
“As the steward of the nation’s public lands, and as the agency responsible for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats, we are uniquely positioned to do better for our Earth,” Haaland said in a statement.
Department facilities have already made progress by installing stations to refill reusable water bottles, boosting recycling, and seeking alternatives to items like plastic bags and utensils, Interior said.
As part of the effort, bureaus and offices will collect data on plastic use, analyze alternatives and identify priority products to address first. They will also identify the need for potential funding, according to plans from sub-agencies including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Parks Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and others.
The plans notes the importance of educating employees and the public to change behaviors around plastic use. For instance, the National Parks Service plan says it may connect plastic reduction with the need to protect wildlife or historical sites in park messaging.
The plans will be updated next year to include interim targets and details on how plastics will be eliminated, Interior said.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Jamie Freed)
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