Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan wants federal parks free of throwaway plastic and Styrofoam cups, plates and utensils.
Lujan told National Park Service officials this week he would like the concessionaires in the parks to ban all non-biodegradable containers, packages and utensils.A spokesman said later that Lujan would not object in some cases to an exception to the rule as long as the plastic items are disposed of through a recycling program.
Most plastic utensils and containers made of polystyrene foam - such as cups and fast-food containers - are not biodegradable, meaning that when buried in a landfill they don't disintegrate for perhaps hundreds of years.
Environmentalists have complained that the widespread use of such products has added considerably to the problems of waste disposal as cities are running out of room for landfills.
California's Yosemite National Park already has curbed the use of such items, substituting paper items and in some cases using a recycling program for plastic items.
"This voluntary initiative, modeled after the successful program implemented (at Yosemite) will stress the desirability of utilizing reusable recyclable or degradable products," Lujan said in a memorandum to all Interior Department employees.
James Ridenour, director of the National Park Service, is to discuss Lujan's proposal at a meeting this week with about 300 concessionaires who operate everything from restaurants to snack shops at the parks, according to an Interior spokesman.