National Park

Plastic accounts for 81% of litter in national parks, report says

Plastic items account for 81% of all trash found in national parks and other public lands across the country, according to a report released Tuesday by an advocacy group.

The analysis, by Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz, a community project that tracks plastic pollution in parks, focused on trash collected by more than 500 volunteers during 44 cleanups at National Park Service sites in July. to September.

It also included sample data from a five-day cleanup event at Yosemite National Park in California, where 1,300 volunteers collected 14,780 pounds of trash over a five-day period.

While packaging for food and drink-related items accounted for 45% of all litter, volunteers recorded a wide variety of litter, including cigarette butts, bottle caps, combs, condoms, wipes, toothpicks, tape, gloves, shoes, lighters, toys and bracelets.

TrashBlitz is a data collection platform and research project created by the 5 Gyres Institute, which focuses on plastic pollution.

The study’s organizers said it underscores “an urgent need for policy and legislative change that addresses single-use plastic in national parks“.

“We must take immediate action to reduce plastic pollution at its source – by eliminating the sale, distribution and use of all single-use disposable plastics and investing in reuse infrastructure and sustainable packaging choices. “said Alison Waliszewski, policy director of 5 Gyres. Institute.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who oversees the park service, said in June the department would reduce and phase out the purchase, sale and distribution of all $480 million single-use plastic products. acres of public land over the next 10 years.

“As stewards of the country’s public lands, including national parks and national wildlife refuges, 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 at the time (green wireJune 8).

But in August, a coalition of environmental groups criticized the plan, saying it “lacks urgency” and should instead be done within two years, before the next presidential election (E&E News PMAugust 10).

Green groups said the new report once again underscores the need for Haaland and the park service to act more quickly.

“Citizen science has spoken: plastic pollution is a problem in our national parks, and single-use plastic is at the top of the list of collected litter,” said Christy Leavitt, campaign director for Oceana. “Our parks and wildlife cannot wait 10 years to reverse this pollution crisis.”