Merkley, colleagues urge administration to curb plastic pollution

Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is leading an effort to push the Biden administration to take steps to curb plastic pollution at America’s national parks.

A letter from Merkley and 11 other senators to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said that nearly 11 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean each year. – from land sources alone. Without any action, that flow is expected to triple to nearly 29 million metric tons by 2040. The letter said single-use plastics, such as disposable water bottles, account for at least 40 percent of the plastic produced each year.

A release said that the senators requested that the National Park Service reinstate a policy – which was instituted in 2011 but rolled back by the Trump administration – to allow parks to voluntarily establish plastic water bottle sale elimination programs. The letter said 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. The senators also asked for 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.

The release said the senators were joined in their request by over 300 environmental and environmental justice organizations and businesses, who wrote to Secretary Haaland last month to call for the elimination of single-unit plastics in National Parks.

Merkley is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. It funds the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.