Aquarium Conservation Partnership Praises Efforts to Address Plastic Pollution in US National Parks and Public Lands

The Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) applauds the Department of the Interior (DOI) for its continuing commitment  to phase out single-use plastic in all U.S. National Parks and public lands before the end of this decade. 

We are pleased DOI’s plan calls on all DOI bureaus and offices to swiftly take action around several key areas, including recycling and waste diversion, marine debris cleanup, working with commercial service providers, and educating the public. 

Our institutions are excited about DOI’s statement that the plans published this week will be updated in 2024, to include targets to step down the use of unneeded plastic and additional details on where and how single-use plastic will be eliminated. We are eager to collaborate, support, and contribute to this urgent and essential effort by DOI. 

Plastic poses a significant threat at every step of its life cycle, from manufacture to disposal. We are extremely concerned about the disproportionate impacts of plastic production and pollution on Black, Indigenous and other communities of color as well as lower income communities. Every stage of the plastic life cycle poses serious risks to human health, both from exposure to plastic itself and associated chemicals that are often unknown due to proprietary reasons

Plastic can now be found in every marine habitat on Earth – from polar sea ice to major ocean gyres to deep ocean trenches. The majority of sea turtle, marine mammal, and seabird species have been impacted by plastic, whether by ingestion or entanglement. Plastics, the vast majority of which are made from fossil fuels, are also a major contributor to the climate crisis.  As plastic production continues to grow so does oil and gas extraction and its contribution to climate change. 

Members of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership have long been committed to reducing the sources of plastic pollution that are harming our ocean and freshwater environments and our communities. Our aquarium and zoo member organizations have communicated to our more than 30 million annual visitors about the impacts on wildlife and ecosystems from plastic pollution and encouraged them to use less single-use plastic. We have conducted research that shows the prevalence of plastic in our regional ecosystems, helped to establish plastic reduction policies in our states and communities, and have reduced single-use plastic in our operations through joint business commitments – collectively eliminating more than one million plastic beverage bottles. 

We celebrate this announcement by the Department of the Interior towards reducing the procurement, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products and packaging. We look forward to sharing our knowledge and lessons learned from our journeys to reduce plastic use and waste together with our commercial partners while continuing public education about the importance of the work. 

Kim McIntyre
Executive Director
Aquarium Conservation Partnership