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Nearly Two Dozen National Parks Ban Sales Of Disposable Plastic Water Bottles

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More and more parks are installing water-filling stations, such as this one at Arches National Park/Kurt Repanshek

Nearly two dozen units of the National Park System have instituted bans against the sale of disposable water bottles, a move proponents say will greatly reduce trash.

For most parks, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, disposable plastic water bottles represent the biggest source of trash that parks must pay to haul away, averaging nearly one-third of all solid waste in parks surveyed.

"Ending sales of plastic bottles in national parks has gotten off to a slow start due to the influence of Coca-Cola, whose Dasani bottled water is one of the top sellers, on top National Park Service officials," PEER maintains. "In 2010, just days before a long-planned plastic bottle ban at Grand Canyon National Park was to take effect, NPS Director Jon Jarvis blocked it at the company's behest. Even more significantly, NPS abandoned its plan to end disposable water product sales in 75 percent of all visitor facilities by 2016."

However, after the matter gained public attention the Park Service director relented, though he issued a directive that required parks to extensively study the impacts of instituting such a ban before they would be permitted to do so. 

The analysis required elaborate assessments that included a review of the amount of waste that could be eliminated from the park; the costs of installing and maintaining water filling stations for visitors; the resulting impact on concessionaire and cooperative association revenues, and consultation with the Park Service's Public Health Office.

The analysis also dictated the consideration of "contractual implications" to concessionaires, the cost and availability of BPA-free reusable containers, and signage so visitors could find water filling stations.

Perhaps due to the controversy, only a handful of national parks adopted bans under the new policy in 2012, its first full year. In 2013, records obtained by PEER indicate that no park that sought a bottle sale ban was turned down and another six parks went bottle-free:

* Colorado National Monument;
* In Texas, Pecos and San Antonio Missions national historic parks;
* In North Carolina, the Outer Banks Group; and
* In Utah, Natural Bridges and Hovenweep national monuments.

Beyond the 23 parks in 10 states that already do not sell plastic water bottles, California'™s Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the most heavily visited national park, and Florida'™s Biscayne Bay National Park, are both installing water 'œfilling stations' to provide free water to visitors. In addition, Washington'€™s Mount Rainier National Park indicates it is working on a ban, according to PEER.

"€œFrom desert to ocean parks, from remote wilderness to urban enclaves, the drive to remove the blanket of discarded plastic bottles appears to be slowly regaining momentum,"€ said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that NPS replaced its goal of a ban on bottle sales at 75 percent of facilities with a vaguer target that parks cut solid waste streams by half by 2016, the year of the NPS Centennial.

"National Parks will be hard pressed to meet the goal of cutting their expensive and un-ecological solid waste load by half without addressing plastic bottles --€“ the single largest source of trash in most parks," said Mr. Ruch.

Word that nearly two dozen parks had banned the sale of the plastic bottle was praised by Corporate Accountability International, which long has lobbied for the ban.

"€œWe applaud the more than 20 national parks that have ended the sale of bottled water on park lands, taking a critical step towards reducing waste and standing up as leaders within the park service by protecting water as a public good," said Erin Diaz, director of the Think Outside the Bottle campaign at the organization.

'With the support of our members, allies, and hundreds of small businesses, organizations and park partners, Corporate Accountability International is calling on the the National Park Service to end the sale of bottled water."


Pecos NHP is in New Mexico, not Texas.

All fine until the first visitor succumbs (or dies) to heat stroke/dehydration.

Now Bill, how would that be different from the folks who succumb from heat stroke or dehydration today from simple lack of preparation?

Senseless "feel good" rules that accomplish nothing and inconvenience many.

Good news from the parks; there seems to be a wider cultural shift in this direction. My university installed water filling stations all over campus. My wife's alma mater is moving in that direction as well:

How dare they inconvenience the visitor by asking them to bring in their own empty water bottle! lol Personally I love these bans and know from personal experience that when parks stop selling disposable pre-filled water bottles, the amount of them that end up in the parks collection is significantly less. That means less time spent sorting and hauling and less plastic that ends up in the ground or in the ocean. How exactly do these bans have no impact EC? These "feel good rules" are the way of the future in all aspects of human life. Im glad that the mentality that you represent is headed out with the baby boomers EC.

Hmmm. Should I chose a path in life where I endeavor to make myself and others feel good, or chose a path in life where I endeavor to make folks feel bad.

I guess that decision is a dividing point.

No, Rick, you should choose a path in life that will help ensure that others in the future will feel good because they are not struggling for a decent environment in which to live -- or perhaps for survival itself.

Intelligent people will understand that there may be times when we need to accept a bit of inconvenience if we are to look forward to decent futures.

I've read enough of your posts here to know that you're not the kind of guy who would want to make anyone feel bad -- unless they deserve it. Perhaps those who fight efforts focusing on environmental quality deserve it at least temporarily because their shortsightedness can cause real harm to others some day. They need to learn somehow that good environmental stewardship and profitable business actually CAN go hand in hand.

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