Community research project results underscore urgent need to address single-use plastic in national parks
The 5 Gyres Institute and its partners reveal the findings of the Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz, a community science project tracking plastic pollution in US national parks. Based on data submitted by volunteers, plastic is the most prevalent material found in national parks and federal lands, accounting for 81 percent of all reported trash.
Food and beverage-related items made up the bulk of the debris found, accounting for 45 percent of the total trash recorded. Cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles, bottle caps, and textiles were the most common items found. Repeatedly topping the list of top corporate plastic polluters in the world1Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo were among the top 10 brands identified, along with Camel, Marlboro, Nature Valley, Gatorade, Crystal Geyser, Parliament and Kirkland.
Project partners mobilized volunteers from across the country to organize cleanups from July to September and upload their findings to the TrashBlitz research platform. More than 500 volunteers participated in cleanups at 44 sites across the country, including national parks and federal lands such as urban parks, forests and monuments managed by the National Park Service. TrashBlitz volunteers also collected data samples at the Yosemite Facelift, an annual five-day cleanup event in Yosemite National Park during which 1,300 volunteers collected 14,780 pounds of trash.
Data from the Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz underscores the urgent need for policy change and legislation to address single-use plastic in national parks. Earlier this year, the US Department of the Interior announced an order to phase out the sale of single-use plastic on federal land by 2032.two, but these results show that the plastic problem requires faster action. In addition to moving up the 10-year timeline, the National Park Service may implement improvements to the parks, such as increasing access to charging stations and requiring reusable dining utensils for on-site dining.
A bill introduced last year by Rep. Mike Quigley3 would ban the sale and distribution of several major items found during the TrashBlitz project, including single-use plastic bottles, straws, and packaging. If it passes, the Waste Reduction Law in National Parks is the fastest way to address single-use plastic pollution in national parks.
“I have been fortunate to visit seven national parks during my time in Congress. Each visit emphasizes the importance of protecting these national treasures from all threats,” said Congressman Quigley. “These visits have also taught me that plastic pollution in our parks causes serious damage to many fragile ecosystems. we must pass the Waste Reduction Law in National Parks to ensure the health and beauty of our national parks for generations to come.”
The full Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz report can be found here.
Nonprofit and brand partners supporting Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz include 5 Gyres, Azulita Project, Ban SUP Refill, Beyond Plastics Seattle, Break Free From Plastic, ChicoBag Company, Community Environmental Council, Gnarwhal Coffee Co., Inland Ocean Coalition, Klean Kanteen, MOM’s Mercado Orgánico, Natracare, Oceana, Oceanic Global, Oceanic Preservation Society, Plaine Products, Plastic Free Future, Plastic Free July, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Port Arthur Community Action Network (PACAN), prAna, Preserve, ProGrade Digital , Resilient Palisades, Sarama Inc, Shark Stewards, Story of Stuff Project, Surfrider San Francisco, Sway, The Bay Foundation, The Last Plastic Straw, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Zero Waste Washington.
“Each piece of trash documented by volunteers is incredibly valuable in helping us understand the unique plastic pollution trends of national parks and federal lands. As a result of the national Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz, we have strong data showing that single-use plastic items make up the majority of the trash that escapes the waste stream, ultimately harming the health of our people. , wildlife and waterways in our most precious places. landscapes 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 options.”
– Alison Waliszewski, Policy Director, 5 Gyres Institute
“Citizen science has spoken: Plastic pollution is a problem in our national parks, and single-use plastic tops the lists of collected waste. Our parks and wildlife cannot wait 10 years to reverse this pollution crisis – the Department of the Interior must quickly phase out single-use plastics so it can uphold its commitment to protecting these special areas.”
– Christy Leavitt, Campaign Manager, Oceana
“While the Department of the Interior’s plans to phase out plastic in our national parks have set a clear direction to follow, the results of the TrashBlitz study tell us that we need to accelerate the timeline. The department needs to work aggressively with park concessionaires to ensure we are moving away from the sale of single-use plastics in parks. If we are going to address the plastics crisis, our national parks must lead the way on how we can shape a future without waste.” – Sam Pearse, lead activist, The Story of Stuff Project
“This timely TrashBlitz citizen science audit of national parks and federal lands demonstrates why it is critical to stop selling and distributing single-use plastics in these precious and shared places. The alternatives are well identified and available to make this change today, we don’t have to wait 10 years. A community of organizations, solution providers, and advocates from across the country stands ready to support DOI in this significant effort, which will inspire other institutions and agencies to follow suit. #SolutionsExist”
– Cassia Patel, Director of Programs, Oceanic Global
“The recent TrashBlitz report advocates accelerating the deadline by which the Department of the Interior has already agreed to stop the sale and distribution of single-use plastic items in our national parks and on federal lands. There are solutions to plastic pollution. Allowing this crisis to continue counteracts critical efforts to protect our planet. It also disrespects the original stewards of the Earth, the indigenous peoples, who were violently and unfairly robbed of land used to establish national parks. DOI can and must do better by implementing zero-waste systems and solutions in our national parks and on federal lands as soon as possible.” – Jackie Nuñez, Advocacy and Engagement Manager, Plastic Pollution Coalition, and Founder, The Last Plastic Straw
“Our National Parks and beaches are overwhelmed by plastic harmful to wildlife and human health, but the power of our community and the data provided by Plastic-Free Parks TrashBlitz will help us turn the tide on toxic waste.”
– David McGuire, Founder and Director, Shark Stewards
“Mountains of single-use plastic and plastic bottles overwhelm wildlife, create greenhouse gases, pollute our waters and cost taxpayers to transport. As crowds return to record levels after the pandemic, a tsunami of plastic debris will once again flood our parks. The Biden administration has committed to addressing this issue for the next ten years. However, national parks can start to stop using plastic right now.”
– Colleen Teubner, Litigation and Policy Attorney, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
TrashBlitz is a community-focused research project and data collection platform created by The 5 Gyres Institute. The community project is designed to engage local stakeholders in measuring plastic pollution and other debris in various cities, from coastlines to riverbeds to urban neighborhoods, and use data to generate relevant action plans. TrashBlitz provides robust investigation protocols, a web-based platform that identifies problematic products and brands, and a network to bring diverse stakeholders together to co-create solutions to stop plastic pollution at the source.
About the 5 Turns Institute
The 5 Gyres Institute is a leader in the global movement against plastic pollution with over 10 years of experience in scientific research and engagement on plastic pollution issues. Since 2009, the team has completed 19 expeditions, bringing more than 300 citizen scientists, corporate executives, brands and celebrities to eddies, lakes and rivers to conduct first-hand research on plastic pollution. Through this research, 5 Gyres engages diverse stakeholders in understanding science to drive impact, as well as conducting community outreach and citizen science to implement data-driven solutions. With more than 1,400 ambassadors in 66 countries, 5 Gyres supports and is supported by members of the community with information, tools, and connections to help drive local change to combat this global crisis.