Image credit: DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE AND DENALI EDUCATION CENTER

Fall 2022

Ditching Disposables

By Katherine DeGroff

Single-use plastics are no longer welcome in national parks.


Magazine Article

Small Plastic, Big Problem

Plastic is polluting oceans and national park beaches alike, and new studies show that even the tiniest pieces pose a large threat.

See more ›

The cat’s out of the non-recyclable, non-compostable bag: National parks have a trash problem. Business as usual in the nation’s more than 420 park units produces around 70 million pounds of garbage each year, much of that in the form of one-and-done plastic products, such as straws, bottles and bags. Thankfully, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland decided to shake up the status quo by singling out single-use plastics in a June secretarial order. The directive, which follows an executive order on sustainability that President Joe Biden signed last December, would phase out the sale and use of these items in national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands by 2032.

“This is really a strong statement from the secretary,” said Sarah Barmeyer, NPCA’s senior managing director of Conservation Programs. Reducing our dependence on these petroleum-based products not only benefits the climate, Barmeyer said, it lightens the burden on park waste management systems, decreases litter on lands and waterways, and helps protect wildlife from plastic ingestion. “The Park Service should be leading on this,” she said.

About the author

  • Katherine DeGroff Associate and Online Editor

    Katherine is the associate editor of National Parks magazine. Before joining NPCA, Katherine monitored easements at land trusts in Virginia and New Mexico, encouraged bear-aware behavior at Grand Teton National Park, and served as a naturalist for a small environmental education organization in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue

National Parks, our award-winning quarterly magazine, is an exclusive benefit of membership in the National Parks Conservation Association.

More from this issue

Breaking Ground

Read more from NPCA

  • Blog Post

    How National Parks and Monuments Are Designated

    Jul 2023 | By Linda Coutant

    Ever wondered how sites get added to the National Park System? NPCA explains the two processes used to preserve America’s lands and stories.

  • Blog Post

    5 Reasons to Care About a New Conservation Rule

    Jun 2023 | By Angela Gonzales, Kristen Brengel, Matthew Kirby

    The Bureau of Land Management is considering a meaningful shift in how it treats our public lands. NPCA supports this improved balance between conservation and other uses.

  • Blog Post

    Coastal Parks Offer Climate Solutions

    Jun 2023 | By Sarah Gaines Barmeyer

    NPCA is working to ensure coastal national parks are part of the climate solution. The more we protect national park waters from climate impacts now, the more they will protect…