Six years ago, a ban was put on selling plastic water bottles within national parks. The ban, which only placed restrictions on 23 out of the 417 national parks, was created in the hopes of limiting plastic bottle use and lessening pollution. In a report about the ban recently released by the National Park Service, 112,000 pounds of plastic were not sold and thrown away and 140 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions were prevented from being created thanks to the ban. Likewise, 276-419 cubic yards of landfill were not used. Despite all this evidence of the ban being beneficial to the environment, the Trump administration repealed it this past August.
Those opposed to the ban argued that by not selling bottled water but still selling other bottled drinks, such as soda, visitors to the parks no longer had the healthier option of water if they were thirsty. Jill Culora, a spokesperson for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), said on the topic, “Consumption of water in all forms — tap, filtered and bottled — should always be encouraged.” However, after the ban was placed, the Parks Service actually began to encourage their visitors to drink water using their water bottle filling stations and reusable bottles, which they sold, more. Additionally, the Parks Service used this opportunity to educate the public on the negative effects of using plastic bottles and on the importance of staying hydrated. Zion National Park wrote in a separate report, “The end results [of the program created to make water available during the ban] are avoided waste and a learning opportunity for visitors.” This avoided waste mentioned ended up being “the equivalent of 5,000 pounds of plastic not entering the waste stream.” Zion National Park also stated that the sale of their reusable water bottles increased by 78 percent as a result of the ban. This money gained and the money saved from not having to pay to recycle or dispose of all the plastic bottles used has made it so parks have excess money that they can use to improve in other ways.
David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist working for the law firm that represents Nestlé Waters, was appointed as deputy interior secretary three weeks before the removal of the ban. Nestlé Waters is one of the biggest bottled water companies: it owns the brand Deer Park. Many Democratic senators have pointed out how Bernhardt worked for the corporate companies opposed to the Interior Department regulations for clean air and water and that the ban was lifted soon after he was appointed. This has led to many questioning the real reason behind repealing the ban.
Although the ban has been removed, 200 parks want to or have already become bottled water free. There is a lot of proof that the ban was working and benefiting the environment prior to its removal. But if everyone does their part and limits their plastic bottle use everywhere, not just in the national parks, then there would be no need for a ban. The environment would benefit and so would we. So the next time you get water, reach for a glass or a reusable bottle instead of a plastic one.
By: Elizabeth Griffin