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Quigley Re-Introduces the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act

Oct 8, 2021
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), Vice-Chair of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC), re-introduced the Reducing Waste in National Parks Act. This legislation would restore Obama-era guidance banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in national park facilities, where possible. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is the lead sponsor of the newly bi-cameral Senate companion bill, also introduced today

The Reducing Waste in National Parks Act is being re-introduced following Quigley’s three-day climate change tour of Acadia National Park, where he learned first-hand about the devastating impacts of climate change on Acadia and other National Parks.

“My trip to Acadia was not only eye-opening but served as a reminder of the threat that plastic pollution can pose to these national treasures,” said Quigley. “Too often, single-use plastics end up polluting national parks and clogging our waterways. When they build up along trails and streams, they pose a severe threat to the plants and animals living there. By addressing the issue of plastic waste, we are not only helping ourselves and the planet but all the creatures that we share this planet with. This is common-sense legislation that if enacted and signed into law, will ensure that our natural wonders are around for generations to come.”

“Plastic pollution threatens our ability to live in healthy communities and to enjoy the beauty and majesty of our national parks, today and in the future,” said Merkley, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the National Park Service. “Single-use plastic production threatens some of our nation's most special places. Inaction at this moment is unacceptable if we want to protect national parks for generations to come, and passing the Reduce Waste in National Parks Act is a critical step to avoid further climate chaos and ensure a sustainable environment for all.”

In 2017, the Trump administration reversed Obama-era guidelines that allowed the National Park Service to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in parks where possible. As a result of the original ban on plastic water bottles, 23 out of 417 national parks, including Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, implemented restrictions on bottled water sales and National Parks experienced real success in reducing plastic waste. Zion National Park in Utah eliminated the sale of 60,000 water bottles, or 5,000 pounds of plastic waste, by installing bottle-filling stations and selling affordable reusable bottles in their concession stands.

“No one wants to see single-use plastic pollution in our national parks, and there’s no reason we should when sustainable alternatives exist. Single-use plastic products only mar these special places, and their damage can last for centuries despite being used for only a moment,” said Christy Leavitt, Campaign Director at Oceana. “We applaud Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Mike Quigley for leading the way toward plastic-free parks and recognizing the critical need for reducing the use of unnecessary single-use plastic in the United States. Plastic has now been found in every corner of the world — our national parks are one corner we should spare from plastic pollution’s detrimental effects.”

"We cannot protect our most protected lands from plastic pollution until we get rid of the threat posed by single-use plastics," said Juliana Clejan, U.S. PIRG Zero Waste associate. "It's time to take action to end the sale of the most harmful and pervasive products infiltrating our national parks."

“Our National Parks offer protected homes for some of our planet’s most imperiled and rare species and it’s imperative that these homes are free of pollutants that threaten their health and welfare,” said Andrea Densham, senior director of government affairs and conservation policy at Shedd Aquarium. “For Shedd Aquarium and the other 25 U.S. aquariums that make up the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, we know that our planet’s health is in our hands. That’s why we’ve collectively eliminated many single-use plastic materials in our operations to reduce our footprint on the planet. We applaud Illinois' own Rep. Mike Quigley with Senator Jeff Merkley for continuing to take the lead towards plastic-free National Parks and building a vibrant blue planet for generations to come.”

“Our National Parks are symbols of natural beauty, but all too often they are littered with plastic," said Jennie Romer, Legal Associate for the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Initiative. "The Surfrider Foundation has long been at the forefront of the movement to ban single-use plastic water bottles in National Parks and we are thrilled that this bill would go beyond water bottles to also address plastic bags, foodware, and expanded polystyrene products. The expanded scope represents a shift in overall plastic reduction policy from a focus on individual items to a more comprehensive approach. This legislation will go a long way towards protecting our ocean, waves, and beaches from the threat of plastic pollution.”

Last month, Quigley led a group of three SEEC members on a tour of Acadia National Park. During the tour, the members saw the impact that climate change is having on the National Park System firsthand. National Park Service scientists and experts from the Schoodic Institute also educated the members on the tactics they have deployed to combat the effects of climate change and the measures that could be implemented going forward to help adapt to coming climate impacts. The Reducing Waste in National Parks Act is just one federal initiative that will help these experts in their mission to preserve our nation’s precious natural treasures.