Chairman Merkley Applauds Interior for Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics, Protecting Public Lands & Waters

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley – the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the US. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service – applauded the Biden administration for releasing an order that will curb plastic pollution at America’s national parks.

“Its great news that Department of the Interior is moving to get single-use plastics out of our public lands and waters,” said Senator Merkley. “This order is a step forward, but there is more we must do to move quickly to address the plastic pollution crisis. With everyone – from park rangers to park visitors – doing their part we can get this done before the decade has passed!”

Last year, Merkley led the Senate introduction of the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act—the most comprehensive plan ever introduced in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis that is poisoning our air, water, and land, and disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income Americans. Merkley is also the author, along with Rep. Mike Quigley, of the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act, which would ban the use of single-use plastic water bottles in national parks where possible and raised eliminating single-use plastics with the Director of the National Park Service prior to his confirmation.

Last fall, Senator Merkley led 11 of his colleagues in pressing the National Park Service to reinstate a policy—which was instituted in 2011 but rolled back during the Trump administration—to allow parks to voluntarily establish programs to eliminate disposable plastic water bottle sales. The policy had previously diverted between 1.3 and 2 million disposable water bottles, a savings of up to 111,743 pounds of plastic and 141 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the senators suggested a requirement that all park units establish a program to eliminate the sale of disposable plastic water bottles, as well as new recycling requirements, where feasible, and plastic reduction strategies in concession contracts.