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Traveler's View: Lost In The Water Bottle Ban Debate Is National Park Service Leadership


The National Park Service should work to reduce plastics pollution, not take a hands-off approach/Kurt Repanshek file

What message did the National Park Service send with its statement, after deciding to reverse a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles, that the move reflected "its commitment to providing a safe and world-class visitor experience..."?

That corporate lobbying carries the day?

That plastic pollution is not a global problem?

That it really isn't concerned about climate change?

That politics rule the day?

That its Green Parks Plan, which stresses sustainability and recycling, was little more than a slogan?

What the Park Service failed to mention when it said the reversal "comes after a review of the policy’s aims and impact in close consultation with Department of the Interior leadership" was that a new member of that leadership, Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, until joining the administration worked for a Washington, D.C., firm that lobbied for Nestle Water.

Plastic waste is an international problem. Not only do plastic bottles and other plastic waste take roughly 450 years to decompose -- for some bottles, it can be nearly three times as long -- but before that happens plastics pollute our oceans, where they are ingested by marinelife and seabirds, and litter landscapes. 

Plastics in our oceans threaten marine life, human health and the viability of critical marine ecosystems. Marine life dies from plastic ingestion and entanglement, litter covers our coral reefs, and our food chain becomes increasingly contaminated.

Plastics never go away. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, which act as magnets for polluting toxins. Eaten by fish, those chemical-laden microplastics work their way up the food chain and into our food supply. --

Plastic waste also adversely impacts soils, according to Chemical and Engineering News.

According to the staff at Grand Canyon National Park, the ban:

  • "(D)ecreases in plastics going to the landfill (although about 35% of the park’s waste stream is currently diverted to be recycled, it is estimated by the waste management staff that about 50% of what is taken to the landfill could also be recycled)"
  • Helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gases generated by the manufacture of plastic bottles
  • Reduces litter, of which plastic bottles are one of the top two sources along the rim trails
  • Protects wildlife against plastic ingestion,
  • And can even save visitors money as refilling stations are free.

"While the lifting of the ban is disappointing to hear, I believe that only a relatively few national parks (Bryce and Grand Canyon being two of them) actually took the step to ban sale of disposable water bottles in their parks," said Brent Reinke, a founder of Vapur, a reuseable water container. The company also has worked with parks to install water filling stations.

"So while there will likely be an impact on the effort to limit disposable water bottle sales (and accompanying waste associated with those bottles), I still believe there is and will be continued strong efforts to promote the use of reusable water bottles in our National Park System," he added.

At the Sierra Club, Public Lands Policy Director Athan Manuel said the Park Service's reversal "is clearly an industry-oriented move further emphasizing where this administration’s allegiances stand."

"Actions that roll back protections on our national parks and public lands only move our country backward -- putting the importance of local economies, wildlife and communities on the back burner. The reversal is but a symbol for this administration’s larger attacks on environmental safeguards and protection of public lands."

The point of the ban wasn't to entirely rid the landscape of plastics. That was evident in that it didn't also ban the sale of sodas and other drinks in plastic containers. But by providing refilling stations and mounting education campaigns around the problem of plastics and the value of reusable containers, the Park Service was taking a responsible stand to both educate visitors and reduce, if even just a little, the amount of litter.

In December 2011, then-Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, in a memorandum to his regional directors on the question of plastic water bottle sales, wrote that, "(S)ustainability is a signature effort for the National Park Service. We must be a visible exemplar of sustainability, so it is imperative that we move our sustainability program forward as an organization."

Sadly, with the reversal, the Park Service has moved its program backwards.


The only correct answer is that Politics Rules The Day.  (And money)

This was not a Park Service decision.  And the Park Service is not the only agency being dumped on by Herr Drumpf.  When it comes to envrionment and good sense versus dollars, we know which side will win.

The NPS has been Trumped . .  . . and this is just one of the first body blows the agency will receive.

Maybe the 25th Amendment will save us. . . .

(Well, I can dream can't I?)


The water bottle ban was purely a symbolic gesture that had absolutely no effect on the supposed problems you identified. Meanwhile it inconvenienced park visitors, increased park expense, lost park revenues, and potentially put lives at risk.  Lifting the ban was the rational thing to do. 

"Rational". Not so subtle message is "anyone who doesn't agree with my minority opinion" is obviously not rational. Oh - and the insinuation that asking people to refill bottles rather than disposing of them puts their lives at risk.


Symbolic. Gesture. Absolutely no effect. Supposed problems. Try making a rational post without any of your slanted personal opinion words.


I have little doubt Buck that no one not already in agreement with your opinion is convinced by your partisan rants. I'm going ahead with my informed opinion that disposing of plastic waste is a problem and that minimizing it is helpful to humanity and the environment.

I know facts upset people like yourself, but Obama did the Exact Same Thing and the NPS survived!! The NPS has set up refill stations but they do not mark them very well or let visitors know where they are. 

I have been camping and visiting at least 40 National Parks for the past 40 years. I am appalled that plastic is not totally banned from the US. The National Parks are a vital part of America! Those of us who love them want them to never change. Yes unfortunately fires happen but let up preserve them bef its too late. 

If you love our National Parks and America then it's time to make a huge change. Use bottles that are made of glass or stainless steel. The staibless steel ones are great as I have 2 that I have had for a least 10 years. I have refilled them more than I can count. Please stop using plastic. It's not good for the earth or us humans.



Rick, what percentage of the worlds plastic bottles are plastic water bottles sold in US National Parks? Answer - an infinitesesimal percent.  That is not "slanted personal opinion" it is fact.  Eliminating their sale (which probably caused a shift to buying more sugary soda - had no positive impact - which is also fact.   You are entitled to your opinion and while you may be informed it is obvious that your heart is driving it much more than your mind.  

Every bit helps, and this program was exposing a lot of people to a growing problem, Earth becoming the plastic planet.  Plastics don't biodegrade and stay in the environment.   During my recent visit to Zion, I was glad to see so many people using the (free) water fill stations.  Unfortunately, kurt is right.  Politics rules, and this Administration's policies are heavily weighted towards corporate interests and against environmental protection.

First you implied support for the nazi's in Charlottesville. Now you imply that plastic waste is not a problem.


The only ones who believe you are those who came to earth on the same space ship.

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