Bottled Water Industry Pushes Back Against Drive To Phase Their Product Out Of National Parks

A week after a campaign was mounted to encourage the National Park Service to phase bottled water out of the parks, the bottled water industry pushed back a bit, saying to do so would encourage visitors to turn to unhealthy alternatives to quench their thirsts.

In a release Tuesday the International Bottled Water Association said "(E)fforts to eliminate or reduce access to bottled water in our national parks will force consumers to choose less healthy drink options that have more packaging, more additives (e.g., sugar, caffeine), and greater environmental impacts than bottled water."

According to the group, research shows that in the absence of bottled water products, "63 percent of people will choose soda or another sugared drink – not tap water."

"We expect the same consumer response if access to bottled water is restricted in our national parks," said the group in the release. "And such a response will therefore not likely reduce the presence of plastic bottles within the recycling streams of our national parks."

Corporate Accountability International, a non-profit that works to encourage cleaner environmental habits, last week sent representatives to Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Independence Hall National Historical Park, and Mount Rainier National Park with over-sized postcards encouraging park officials to commit to phasing out bottled water.

Kristin Urquiza, who oversees the "Outside the Bottle and Public Works Compaign" for Corporate Accountability International, says more parks need to follow Zion, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Grand Canyon national parks in phasing out the sale of disposable water bottles.

To get more parks to phase-out bottled water, the non-profit has been working with stakeholders in and out of national parks, including concessionaires, "to help give Park Service (superintendents) the support they need to really move forward on implementing a 'bottled-water-free' policy in their parks," she said.

While none of the four parks has given "firm commitments" to moving forward with a ban, said Ms. Urquiza, talks have been ongoing to examine the feasibility of such a ban.

"The real exciting feedback that we've been getting is that water in the parks is an incredibly important issue for superintendents," she said. "They want to figure out how to minimize the amount of waste, to promote public water."

But the water bottlers say Americans want bottled water. "Consumers choose bottled water for several reasons, including its refreshing taste, reliable quality, zero calories and additives, and convenience," the organization said. "In fact, since 1998, approximately 73 percent of the growth in bottled water consumption has come from people switching from carbonated soft drinks, juices, and milk to bottled water.

"Banning or restricting access to bottled water in the marketplace, including within national parks, directly impacts the right of people to choose the healthiest beverage on the shelf. And for many, bottled water is a critical alternative to other packaged beverages, which are often less healthy. Bottled water must therefore be available wherever packaged beverages are sold."

The group does support ongoing efforts to "further increase the availability of clean, safe drinking water in national parks, cities, towns, on college campuses, in the work place, and at home should be encouraged. This, in fact, complements the National Park Services’ own ongoing healthy foods initiative. Bottle refilling stations and water fountains throughout national parks and communities are an excellent opportunity to help promote healthy hydration. But access to bottled water is also a key component of this effort and should not be discouraged, prohibited, or overlooked when discussing water’s role in a healthier lifestyle."

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According to the group, research shows that in the absence of bottled water products, "63 percent of people will choose soda or another sugared drink – not tap water."

"We expect the same consumer response if access to bottled water is restricted in our national parks," said the group in the release. "And such a response will therefore not likely reduce the presence of plastic bottles within the recycling streams of our national parks."


I don't follow; isn't the ban on the sale of all beverages in plastic bottles?

Just bottled water, Justin.

Does this vary from park to park? I thought I read that Saguaro had banned all plastic bottles.

I really wish bottled water as a consumer product had never been invented.

Megaera,

If you dont want it, dont buy it.

A masterful piece of PR work by the industry.

If the primary concern of ban supporters is over the environmental issues posed by the plastic bottles, this article makes a good point. If any such ban were to be instituted in parks or elsewhere, it would make sense to include all beverages sold in plastic bottles, not just water.

The industry says bans on bottled water "would encourage visitors to turn to unhealthy alternatives to quench their thirsts." Based on my very unscientific survey (interviews with Bubba and Billy Bob down at the crossroads convenience store) that might include an increase in beer consumption (a product which of course is not sold in plastic bottles.)

If that were to be the case, maybe this isn't such a great idea after all :-)


"And such a response will therefore not likely reduce the presence of plastic bottles within the recycling streams of our national parks."


And this has already been refuted by Zion and Saguaro.


And this has already been refuted by Zion and Saguaro.


Has it? Have those parks proved no substitution? From the best I can tell they estimated reductions by focusing on the number of water bottles no longer sold. I don't believe they have been actually siftied and weighed plastic bottles by type.

And even if not, what exactly was accomplished?


Has it? Have those parks proved no substitution? From the best I can tell they estimated reductions by focusing on the number of water bottles no longer sold. I don't believe they have been actually siftied and weighed plastic bottles by type.


You might contact the parks directly for additional details. They seem to be pretty certain about the reductions.

Yes Justin, they are certain how many water bottles they didnt sell. What they havent told us is how many more other plastic bottles they did sell. And I ask again, what did they actually accomplish?

As we've previously noted on the Traveler, at Hawaii Volcanoes, where the cooperating association decided to stop selling disposable bottles, the association estimated it will gross $80,000 a year in reusable bottle sales and will net a profit. At Zion, concessionaire Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which came up with the idea of banning disposable water bottle sales, lost $25,000 in 2009-10, according to an NPS memo. However, the move at Zion reduced the waste stream by roughly 5,000 pounds annually and cut energy consumption in the visitor center by about 10 percent during 2009-2010.

So, what they accomplished was reducing the waste stream in both parks, and at Hawaii Volcanoes, at least, the cooperating association is making a tidy profit off the sales of reusable water bottles.

What a surprise that a business would protest not being able to sell their product. That's their right. The thing is, it is totally someone else's right to decide not to sell a product.

I say, let them complain - can't stop 'em - and continue on to do the right thing.

I'm really curious - do any of the apologists for the industry have the data on how long it takes a plastic water bottle to decompose? Hint.


Zion reduced the waste stream by roughly 5,000 pounds annually


How was that determined? Did they weigh the trash every day? Or did they they take the number of water bottles previously sold and estimate their weight?


"and cut energy consumption in the visitor center by about 10 percent"


Which could have been done just selling the water at room temperature - which it probably reached within minutes of leaving the visitor center.


is making a tidy profit


And what exactly is "a tidy profit" ? Is it more or less than $25,000?


It is totally someone else's right to decide not to sell a product.


Absolutely, but the one making the decision to not to sell is not the seller, its a third party arbitrarily preventing the sale for no good reason.

If someone is dumb enough to spend money on bottled water, then let them. But not in a park. Let's lead the way on sensibility. I read somewhere the other day that bottled water is apparently falling out of favor these days. So maybe sensibility is finally beginning to catch on in some places and among more intelligent people. Perhaps it's true that you can only fool some of the people some of the time until they catch on.

As for the claim that this will "force" people to buy sugary drinks ----- sheesh. I have a bridge across the Pacific to Hawaii that I'll be glad to sell to anyone who actually believes that.

Do they weigh all the trash? Actually, yes, they do. Any time a dumpster is picked up by a trash truck, it is weighed using an onboard scale. The scale activates any time the arms lift a dumpster box. This avoids overloading the truck and in most cases provides the basis for paying the tipping fee at the dump and/or charging the customer. In most parks, garbage collection is contracted out to a local company on a per ton basis.

Maybe someone can develop a water bottle that is soluble in H two Oh so it doesn't take 700 years to decompose. That would solve the problem completely as long as you drink it fast enough.

"I read somewhere the other day that bottled water is apparently falling out of favor these days."

I think that might be right, Lee. Anecdotally, there are hydration stations all over campus, which are frequently used. I rarely, if ever, see anyone drinking a purchased bottle of water.


Any time a dumpster is picked up by a trash truck, it is weighed using an onboard scale.


OK Lee - so they weigh the dumpster. Do they have any idea what is in it? How much is plastic bottles? How much was bought in the park and how much outside the park?

And lets say they drop the waste by 5,000 lbs. So what. What does that accomplish relative to what it costs?

Assuming a fresh water alternative is offered in the Park, I fully support the bottled water ban idea and find it unfortunate that the bottled water industry is fighting it with mis-information such as claiming users will switch to unhealthy drinks and damage the environment more.

Bottled water has its place and is a good thing for many reasons. However it's environmental impact is dramatic so limiting its use in NPs is a positive thing. To question the environmental impact of the plastic bottles is just not realistic. I have 5 reusable containers that I have used for approx 1 decade now. To be sure, these required petroleum to be created and once discarded they will stick around for at least 1000 years. So without a doubt they have an environmental impact that will need to be dealt with. But if I stick those 5 bottles in a tub and watch them slooooooowly decay for the next 1k years, and stack that picture up against one decade of left over non-reusable water bottles....I am comparing a mountain to a mole hill. It's simply not even close. If the landfill is on my farm, I will take the 5 reusable bottles. I challenge anyone or any community to say they would rather inherit and store the mountain of bottles. Ill note that recycling the bottles is great and absolutely helps minimize the waste, but it does have its limits and the plastic can only be re-used so many times.


However it's environmental impact is dramatic ....


What is "dramatic about it? So, if not recycled, they last a long time. So does glass, rocks, and many other natural and/or man made items. Where is the "impact' and how does banning them from the parks have any material effect on that "impact"?

Why not appease everyone by continuing the sale of bottled water but keeping it behind the counter and marking its price up sky high to a level that is unaffordable to the vast majority of visitors. Any profits, assuming there were any, could be donated to the National Park Service to help pay for park operation costs.

Este Pizza in Salt Lake City serves New York style pizza and has some very strict house rules -- including no pineapple on your pizza. They have (or at least used to have -- I haven't been there since I moved away several years ago) two cans of unopened pineapple at their ordering counter, along with a sign saying that they are pleased to now offer pineapple as a topping. Each can was priced at $49.99 plus a $99.99 corkage fee -- the implication being, of course, that pineapple does not belong on real New York style pizza.

Nor do disposable plastic bottles belong in national parks. You want it, you got it, as long as you're willing to pay the real and total cost of petroleum/chemical exploration, mining/extraction, refining, manufacturing/production, advertising, transportation, marketing, disposal, etc.


You want it, you got it, as long as you're willing to pay the real and total cost of petroleum/chemical exploration, mining/extraction, refining, manufacturing/production, advertising, transportation, marketing, disposal, etc.


And you don't think people are paying that now? You think the bottled water industry and its retailers are selling their product at a loss?

Everything helps. I've been pleased to see more separated recycling receptacles in the various parks I've visited this year. Last year when I was on the recyling committee for our local town plastics were one of our problems. Right now we are incinerating all plastics, however we were researching a machine that shreds all forms of plastic, and bales of the shredded plastic can then be sold to plastic manufacturers to lessen the need for creating new plastic. Recycling makes a lot of sense, and making the funnel into the recycling process readily open and easy to use increases the effect. Since there will probably always be fools who buy overpriced tap water in plastic bottles, if not at parks then at 7-11's, make it easy to discard the bottles into a recycling basket.

Megaera:
I really wish bottled water as a consumer product had never been invented.
Bottled water has been around since at least the 18th century. I remember seeing TV commercials for bottled water (mostly the delivered/reusable 5 gallon jugs) back in the 70's, although the same brands were selling bottled water at retail.

From a practical point of view, I'd probably buy a soda if I forgot to bring a water bottle. I'd drink it first then refill it with tap water. I try to be conscious about proper disposal, but I doubt something like this really results in much difference in waste.

Moonpie:
Nor do disposable plastic bottles belong in national parks. You want it, you got it, as long as you're willing to pay the real and total cost of petroleum/chemical exploration, mining/extraction, refining, manufacturing/production, advertising, transportation, marketing, disposal, etc.
None of the proposals would prevent anyone from bringing in bottled water (or other beverages) from outside a particular park.

Jim Burnett:
The industry says bans on bottled water "would encourage visitors to turn to unhealthy alternatives to quench their thirsts." Based on my very unscientific survey (interviews with Bubba and Billy Bob down at the crossroads convenience store) that might include an increase in beer consumption (a product which of course is not sold in plastic bottles.)

http://www.hannaford.com/product/Budweiser/850490.uts

I personally haven't seen these at any retail store, but I have seen 16 oz PETE beer bottles for sale at events. These are places where they would prefer that patrons not have anything that could be turned into a weapon, such as glass or even cans. At a baseball game, they'll take off the cap before giving it to the customer. Of course one can still bring in sealed bottled water. So you can't buy a projectile weapon there, but you can bring one in.

Certainly at events the concession stands like these because they're much faster than pouring from a tap and because customers are less likely to spill them. And spilling an $8 beer is a painful thing to see.

And speaking of that, I've had various experiences. I've been to some places where everything had to be sealed coming in, just in case someone tried slipping in alcohol. At other places I was told to remove the caps to make them less likely to be an effective projectile (they'll wobble as the contents let loose). Sorry about venturing off topic.

Rick - I have no problem what so ever in encouraging recycling.

ypw -

When I was in Seattle going to 6-8 games a year at Safeco you could NOT bring in a metal water bottle. You could bring in an 'empty soft-sided disposable bottle' and refill it there, so I would buy one plastic bottled water and put it in my Mariners bag, and used the same one for a couple of years or more of refills at the game.

It was silly, but it was the rules. They didn't want metal bottles being flung at the field when the Yankees were in town.

I've been to several places. The one place that had the oddest rules was Anaheim. Absolutely nothing other than sealed water bottles of no more than 1 L. No food and no other beverages since those were sold on-site at high prices.

I actually brought in several 1 L water bottles (the typical 1.5 L large bottles wouldn't be allowed) and even some sparkling mineral water in sealed 500 ml plastic bottles.

So what would happen if it was carbonated water? I guess the point of killing bottled water sales inside parks is that the tap water is supposed to be an adequate source of water. However, sodas and other beverages are still OK in disposable bottles because they're "not plain water".

"The real and total cost." Nice last paragraph, Moonpie.

No, ecbuck, we do not pay the real cost of either petroleum or water. Both are very highly subsidized, as you will find with a simple search. For starters, try:

http://www.nyas.org/events/Detail.aspx?cid=8a3e604a-0be1-4890-addb-d920d07f0957

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/headlines/gleick_vongugelberg.html

http://www.iags.org/costofoil.html

http://www.worldwatch.org/real-price-oil

Or the ecological costs, as several others have pointed out above.

To Moonpie:

Link one - an agenda list with no substantive facts or arguments - but I guess you liked the title.

Link two - an opinion piece about water used for farming. Nothing to do with drinking water - tap or bottled. But again, I guess you liked the title and didn't bother reading the article.

Link three - a repeat of the "subsidized oil" myth. Oil and Gas are some of the highest taxed industries in the country. Exxon/Mobile, by far the largest company in the industry, for example paid $102 billion in taxes and had net income of $44.9 billion. That equates to an effective tax rate of 69.5%. Explain to me how that is a "subsidy'.

http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/34088/000003408813000011/xom10k2012.htm

Link 4 - The old global warming hoax. Even some of its strongest former proponents are backing away from that one.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/twenty-year-hiatus-in-rising-temperatures-has-climate-scientists-puzzled/story-e6frg6z6-1226609140980

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/04/01/were-not-screwed/

The global warming models have been a total fiction.


as several others have pointed out above.


No justin, that is just the problem. Despite my asking several times, no one has actually identified the "ecological problems" much less explained how banning bottles in the park would have any impact on that "problem".

I posted a link above. It's a primer that lists a range of ecological costs, from harm to marine life to how reuse over recycling conserves energy and reduces pollution. That primer should point you toward a mountain of common knowledge and common sense to argue against.

Justin, since most of the items on that list don't have anything to do with the environmnet - i.e. how many bottles we buy, how much we spend ..... and the rest is unsubstantiated claims, why don't you pick out one or two "environmental" issues you want to defend and we will discuss what is fact and what is myth.

[=#0e2233; font-family: 'Open Sans', arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 23px]I found this info; Over 60,000,000 plastic bottles a day are disposed of in U.S. landfills from bottled water use. Other than the direct impact of 30 billion plastic bottles a year being disposed of in U.S. landfills alone, bottled water negatively impacts our environment in many other ways. 17 billion barrels of oil are used each year to produce the 30 billion plastic bottles, producing some 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution. It takes three times the amount of water to produce the bottle as it does to fill it. Not to mention the pollution from transporting heavy loads of bottled water all over the World and the empties to landfills or recycling centers. Having land fills fill up also means having to open new land fills usually farther from the communities center because of urban sprawl. This creates the use of more fuel for garbage service to go to a more distant land fill.[/]

David -

Thanks for sharing some useful stats. Unfortunately, I'll predit ec will shrug such information off as of no import, as he consistently has in the past.

I once lived in a rural area not far from where a major water bottler had a deep well for one of their sources. There was a constant stream of big tanker trucks in and out of there, 7 days a week, hauling water to the bottling plant in a distant city. That's part of the "hidden cost" of this product.

To me the cost is not as important as trying to fill the land fill more slowly.


since most of the items on that list don't have anything to do with the environment


As anyone can see, that's simply not the case.


and the rest is unsubstantiated claims


Funnny thing those references to Yale University, the National Academy of Sciences, etc. But like I said, it's a primer, not a bibliography. If you have the inclination to learn more, you shouldn't have much trouble tracking down a list of further reading. Check out Google Scholar.

Like to continue this conversation through the looking glass, but gotta run.

Moonpie -

Check out some of our recent Alaska news sites [Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch] for even more and very current information about how incredibly subsidized the oil industry is. Our Governor Parnell is pushing through horrendous and unpopular tax breaks for them.


Over 60,000,000 plastic bottles a day are disposed of in U.S. landfills from bottled water use.


So what?


2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution


Pollution? Pure fiction


It takes three times the amount of water to produce the bottle as it does to fill it.


So what?


Having land fills fill up also means having to open new land fills usually farther from the communities center because of urban sprawl.


Tell, what percentage of landfill capacity is filled with water bottles?

How much will banning water bottles in National Parks actually reduce energy consumption or the demand for landfill capacity. The answer - virtually none.

As I figured, Justin, you are unwilling to defend any of it.

Actually by reducing, recycling and elliminating, People other than ecbuck have extended the life of many land fills. So maybe bottled water in the the NPS is only a small portion of that. But in my opinion, it is the right approach. I also would hate to be the person who has to pick up empty water bottles and other trash, and carry them from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You cannot drive a garbage truck to the bottom and back.


I also would hate to be the person who has to pick up empty water bottles and other trash, and carry them from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.


So tell us David, how many bottles sold in the GCNP end up at the bottom of the canyon and are subsequently carried out?

David, justinh and others:

Thanks for making some good points, and as usual, ec's mind is made up, so don't confuse him with any information :-) He's happiest when he's found someone to argue with.

Sadly, he represents a group of Americans whose attitude is "I've got mine and life is good, and resources like water, oil and even landfill space are unlimited, so no need to give any thought to conserving anything for future generations." One of his favorite lines for any suggestion of resource conservation is it's just" anti-corporate, anti-oil, environmental extremism."

In a previous thread on this same subject, ec dismissed the amount of oil used to make plastic water bottles as "two tenths of one percent of our total consumption of oil," and therefore not worth any concern. It's all those seemingly insignificant "two tenths of one percent" that add up to account for our enormous appetite for oil and other resources ... but don't worry, he assures us, there's plenty more where that came from.

The good news is there are other points of view represented on this site and in the country, people who understand that when we can take steps that cost us little or nothing to save even a "few million" barrels of oil or gallons of water, it's worth a try. To not even make any effort is lazy and greedy ... but the status quo sure is easy and comfortable.

Yes, even if sales of plastic bottles were banned in a few more parks, in the big picture the impacts may be primarily symbolic. The hope is such efforts will get more people thinking about the kinds of impacts ec shrugs off as trivial.


So don't confuse him with any information.


It would be useful if your "information" were factual and meaningful. The problem is when you actually are asked to discuss the information or put it in context, you merely run trying to ridicule on your way. It is Saul Alinsky at his best.

Thanks, Mtnliving. Well said.

ecbuck...30% of the trash are from plastic water bottles at Grand Canyon (3000 tons total/887 tons just water bottles) sorry not sure how many do not make it to trash bin or are left on the trail.

David - thanks for some additional stats.

As to ec's inquiry about the actual number of plastic bottles improperly disposed of in the depths of the Grand Canyon, if someone actually went to the trouble to figure that out, he'd probably pan the effort as a waste of time :-)

The key point: dealing with any such litter is a waste of time and resources that could be better used elsewhere. During my 40+ years of hiking a lot of trails in a lot of parks, I don't think I've run across any reusable water bottles tossed carelessly aside, but I've sure picked up a bunch of the cheap plastic ones.

As others have commented, every little bit helps - and every litter bit hurts. Some of our regular commenters sure begrudge tax dollars spent in parks, but they are quick to belittle any efforts to save a few bucks - and that includes those that could be saved if there were fewer throw-away bottles lying around.