AUG 22, 2017 3:15 PM PDT

National Parks Plastic Water Bottle Ban is Reversed

Back in 2011, the National Park Service took a big step toward acting more responsibly when it came to their carbon footprint with the implementation of a plastic water bottle ban. Called Policy Memorandum 11-03, but otherwise known as the “Water Bottle ban,” it encouraged National Parks to cut litter and plastic waste as part of a global effort to reduce the more than one million plastic water bottles per minute that are consumed worldwide. That’s 20,000 plastic water bottles per second.

Because of this campaign, which replaced water bottle sales with water-filling stations and education on the benefits of tap water, 23 of the 417 National Park Service sites went plastic water bottle free. The Grand Canyon, where plastic water bottles made of 20% of waste, and 30% of the park’s recyclable waste, was one of the most famous parks to take the leap, along with Mount Rushmore, Zion, and Bryce Canyon. Several coastal national sites also participated in the ban, motivated by the fact that so much of our plastic waste ends up in the ocean. Things were moving well. Until now.

The Trump Administration has recently declared the "revocation of the memorandum", effective immediately. In a statement released from the NPS, “The 2011 policy, which encouraged national parks to eliminate the sale of disposable water bottles, has been rescinded to expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks. The ban removed the healthiest beverage choice at a variety of parks while still allowing sales of bottled sweetened drinks.”

While this is true, that the sale of sweet bottled drinks was still available to visitors, environmentalists are outraged at the direction that this news brings. With the reality of that 20,000-bottles-per-second statistic creeping down our backs, scientists fear the impact of the growth in plastic water bottle sales could rival the effects of climate change, The Guardian reported. Certainly, the effort to be more environmentally and health conscious would swing the opposite way, opting to eliminate the sale of all bottled drinks and invest more in the water-filling station campaigns. But, of course, there are the politics to consider.

Every year, beverage companies in the US sell more than $11 billion of bottled water, and they’re not about to give up that chunk of change without a fight. "The [bottled-water] industry has lobbied Congress to block this policy for years," says Jesse Bragg, spokesperson for Corporate Accountability International. The bottled water industry has also directly lobbied the Interior Department, which controls the National Park Service; President Trump’s newly appointed deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior was previously a lawyer who worked for a firm that represented one of the large companies that sell bottled water. You connect the dots.

Bragg explains that this is an "example of the industry pulling the strings behind the scenes to protect its profits.” Activists are complaining, too, that the move shows how “the corporate agenda is king and people and the environment are left behind.” Many, including the Sierra Club’s public policy director Athan Manuel, feel that this falls within the scope of Trump’s war on climate. “The reversal is but a symbol for this administration’s larger attacks on environmental safeguards and protection of public lands,” he said.

Water bottle filling stations are part of the campaign to go plastic-bottle-free in National Parks. Photo: GrindTV

As discouraging as this is on an environmental level, in such matters it is important to remember the power that you hold as a consumer. Education is key to changing habits, so if reducing plastic waste is a topic that makes you sit up and think, spread the word.

Sources: The Guardian, NPR, Gear Junkie, NPS

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUL 28, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Meet Nun Cho Ga, The Latest Frozen Mammoth Discovered in Canada!
JUL 28, 2022
Meet Nun Cho Ga, The Latest Frozen Mammoth Discovered in Canada!
Gold miners working in the freezing Klondike gold mines in Canada's Yukon territory have made a discovery while excavati ...
AUG 24, 2022
Space & Astronomy
New Technology Takes Us Up Close with Black Holes
AUG 24, 2022
New Technology Takes Us Up Close with Black Holes
In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal, an international collaboration of researchers use computer mod ...
AUG 31, 2022
Earth & The Environment
New Study Examines Climate Change-Tolerating Animals
AUG 31, 2022
New Study Examines Climate Change-Tolerating Animals
In a recent study published in eLife, an international team of researchers discuss how different mammals respond to the ...
SEP 15, 2022
Technology
Scientists Develop Perovskite Solar Cell That Has Greater Efficiency & Stability
SEP 15, 2022
Scientists Develop Perovskite Solar Cell That Has Greater Efficiency & Stability
In a recent study published in Nature, a team of researchers led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in B ...
SEP 15, 2022
Infographics
The Domestication of Dogs
SEP 15, 2022
The Domestication of Dogs
Modern dogs, which have descended from a now-extinct lineage of wolves, are often called “man’s best friend& ...
SEP 21, 2022
Technology
Researchers Examine "Black Box" of Artificial Intelligence
SEP 21, 2022
Researchers Examine "Black Box" of Artificial Intelligence
In a recent paper presented at the Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, a team of researchers from the ...
Loading Comments...