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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."


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.

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