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the NPS, “The 2011 policy, which encouraged national parks to eliminate the sale of disposable water bottles, has been rescinded to expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks.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
  • 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
APR 20, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 20, 2020
How Sand Cats Survive in the Harsh Desert Environment
The sand cat is a type of feline that spends nearly all its life in the desert. While they may not look that much differ ...
MAY 04, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 04, 2020
A Capuchin Monkey's Curiosity Can Sometimes Cloud its Judgement
Capuchin monkeys are highly intelligent animals, but they’re also rather curious. They’ve adapted to communi ...
MAY 12, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 12, 2020
It's Not a Choice - Cats Need Meat
While you or I might have the freedom of deciding between a carnivorous diet or going all out vegetarian, not all a ...
MAY 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAY 15, 2020
How breathable are our changing oceans?
A study from researchers at the University of Washington examines the breathability of the California Current, the cool, ...
MAY 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 31, 2020
These Penguin Chicks Now Face the Trials of Adulthood
Like any other bird species, adult penguins follow the tried and true tradition of raising their young close to the nest ...
JUN 04, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JUN 04, 2020
COVID-19 Lockdown Leads to Decreases in Outdoor Air Pollution, but Increases in Indoor Air Pollution
With most of North America sheltering in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, it’s not surprising that ...
Loading Comments...