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

Alternate Text
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 “filling 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.

“From 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.

“We 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."

Comments

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: http://e360.yale.edu/digest/student_push_for_ban_on__plastic_water_bottles_irks_industry/3330/ http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-07/ivy-colleges-shunning-bottled-water-jab-at-22-billion-industry.html
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.
Right, Lee. Actually, I think that in order for someone to feel bad about things like this they must have at least a skosh bit of insight into themselves and the unintended results of their actions. That isn't a universal quality.
[quote]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.[/quote] Agreed. But then intelligent people also understand when an action creates only inconvenience and has no meaningful impact on the future.
Right. Which is why intelligent people recognize that this WILL have a meaningful impact on the future as it helps people learn the environmental costs of excessive use of plastics. Minimal inconvenience is a small price to pay for wise stewardship. Saying that it creates "only" inconvenience is a pretty big stretch. And Rick, you're right.
I'm still waiting for you [ec] to post your address so we can arrange a delivery of this insignificant amount of plastic bottle refuse to be dumped there. And will then wait for you to perhaps redefine 'inconvenience ...[with]... no meaningful impact on the future." Until you do, please get out of the way of the rest of us who wish to take what steps we can to clean up the mess we've made of this planet.
While action in a specific park may only be an action that creates "only inconvenience and has no meaningful impact" (which is hard to imagine in parks with the visitation of Grand Canyon, etc . . .), the takeaway/educational value that individual actions DO matter is priceless as folks move on with their lives . . .
Remember a couple of years when Traveler featured a couple of articles about a man at Padre Island (??) who was using trash he collected on the beaches to make sculptures of some kind? Most of it plastic, as I recall. Gonna have to see if I can find that. Found it. It was actually Point Reyes. Here's a link: http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2011/03/these-ingenious-meta-bottles-carry-important-message-point-reyes-national-seashore7838 And from the article: ". . . James decided to save a year's worth of just the plastic bottles he collected along the shoreline. His plan was to store 12 month's worth of "disposable" water bottles he'd picked up and display them with the hope of encouraging people to use a refillable metal bottle—and stop buying plastic." Kinda hard to look at those photos and continue trying to claim that disposable bottles are an "insignificant" problem isn't it? I'm waiting to see what ec has to say about this. I notice he had no comments when the article first appeared.
[quote] please get out of the way of the rest of us who wish to take what steps we can to clean up the mess we've made of this planet.[/quote] I am not standing in your way. If you want to not use plastic bottles fine by me.
BTW This is what happens to those evil landfills to which plastic bottles contribute a minor percent. https://www.wm.com/about/community/whc/wildlife-habitat-sites.jsp
ec's responses and credibility are simply pathetic. But expected. It's obvious that trolling others into endlessly twisting arguments in Traveler is some kind of hobby for ec. But for those whose minds are not clamped shut, here is a link to another Waste Management Company info sheet about recycling plastics. http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp The last two paragraphs in this informative piece are particularly interesting: "It takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce a year's supply of water bottles. That's enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars for a year. Some plastics cannot easily be made into other products, or doing so is not economically feasible. If your local recycler doesn't accept a particular type of plastic, it's probably because the market for that resin is small or non-existent." Management of our trash and garbage stream is one of the most expensive and most difficult challenges faced by local governments in this country. A large part of the challenge is trying to deal effectively with a strong lobby of manufacturers of such things as plastic bottles and grocery bags. It reminds me of a comment made by a man from Germany I met in Zion many years ago. When I asked what surprised him the most about America, he replied, "The size of your garbage cans!"
There are a lot of areas to improve in this. In our little town plastics cannot be recycled - they go to the incinerator. Along with trying to reduce the amount we use, we take our recycle along 100 miles up into the Yukon to a town that does recycle plastic. I'm actually heading out to go there in a couple of minutes. The gas in the car would already be spent as this is an every-couple-month shopping trip. Less plastic used, better access to proper recycling - every little bit helps. I realized years ago that you can't "save the world" - it just pisses off the world; witness EC's little tantrums. I just try to improve what I can, when I can. Using refillable water bottles helps this.
[quote]It takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce a year's supply of water bottles. That's enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.[/quote] So what? [quote] Management of our trash and garbage stream is one of the most expensive and most difficult challenges faced by local governments in this country [/quote]. Well then lets ban the sale of newspapers and magazines, books and paper cups and anything else made with paper. Paper accounts for 30-40% of the landfill tonnage versus 5% or so for plastic bottles (of all kinds)
Documentation, please, ec.
http://thepaperlifecycle.org/end-of-life/in-depth/what-goes-into-the-landfill/ http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/quest/pdfs/unit2/chap4/u2-4_landfills.pdf http://www.learner.org/interactives/garbage/landfill/paper.phtml?CD& http://www.keepodessabeautiful.com/trash.html
So? All any of that proves is that we need better recycling programs and much more strict requirements that everyone must use them or face severe penalties. Paper decomposes. Most plastic doesn't.
[quote] Paper decomposes. Most plastic doesn't.[/quote] Little decomposes in a landfill. One study found meat still on chicken bones 15 years after disposal. Whether it does decompose or not doesn't really make a difference. A landfill is capped, re-purposed and what happens under ground is irrelevant. But your stance really highlights your hypocrisy. Paper is 6-10x the impact on a landfill yet you aren't clamoring to ban paper from the parks. Why? Perhaps the issue (for you) isn't what goes in a landfill. Lets be honest. What is your "agenda"?

ec -

During this discussion on several similar stories on the Traveler, some have pointed out the how much plastic bottles contribute to waste pickup and disposal costs in parks, and as I've said before, even small reductions in costs are important. To follow along with your line of thought, perhaps you'd like to offer some data on how much paper adds to waste pickup and disposal costs in parks, as compared to plastic.

A pretty good percentage of paper used and disposed of in parks probably comes from office operations, and we'd hope that is being handled through a recycling program.

I certainly agree that more needs to be done to reduce the amount of all waste going to landfills - including paper - and digital vs. printed communications is helping in that regard.

At the consumer level, there's an easy and cost effective alternative to plastic water bottles. For some purposes in today's world, there isn't an easy and cost effective alternative to paper - and that includes a paper product that is widely used by virtually everyone in the country. I'd not aware of a satisfactory alternative to that product for Americans, and that paper product is flushed away after use ... so it doesn't go to the landfill :-)

[quote]much plastic bottles contribute to waste pickup and disposal costs in parks, and as I've said before, even small reductions in costs are important. [/quote] And I provided a simple solution for that. Charge a deposit. Unreturned bottles forfeit their deposit and pay for the clean-up. But then, that wouldn't serve the agenda.
Bottle deposit laws have been shouted down or defeat has been purchased in most state legislatures by the packaging lobbies. You ignored that fact as you push your agenda of whatever it is today.
Lee, the NPS doesn't need legislative action to implement a deposit rule in the park. If they can outright ban the sale of plastic bottles they surely could institute a deposit on bottles that are sold. You have more excuses than Carter has pills.

I agree that a deposit (or some kind of surcharge) on plastic bottles would be a good idea, especially if the revenue went to some related purpose, such as litter pickup costs for those that aren't returned.

However, there are potential issues. As Lee suggests, the deposit would likely be challenged as a "tax," which would require some kind of legislative approval. The term "deposit" implies that the buyer can return the bottle and get a refund of some kind. On a park level, that's pretty impractical, without a way to confirm the bottle was purchased from that same seller. And ... in these days of computerized cash registers, there's the issue of programming the system for another type of transaction, and keeping track of the income and outgo for bottle deposits.

The world isn't a simple as during my childhood, where a deposit on glass soda pop bottles was universal, and kids could collect empty bottles and return them to any store, anywhere, to claim the deposit.

There are lots of estimates of the number of plastic water bottles used - one source claims 60 million per day in the U. S. alone. Governments at various levels count heavily on tax revenue from products like tobacco, so an easy way to help balance the budget would be a tax of say 50 cents on every plastic water bottle sold. My old-type calculator couldn't compute that many zeros, but I believe that could raise almost $11 billion a year :-)

ec, you have more dodges and twists than Union Pacific has railroad ties. Jim's comment provides an excellent explanation. Additionally, a few many years ago, Connecticut (I think it was) tried taxing purchases made in convenience stores and earmarked proceeds for litter cleanup. The reasoning was that much of the state's litter came from things purchased in those stores. Guess what happened as soon as that "grossly unfair tax" hit the courts? That is one of the reasons cited in Utah, at least, for several defeats of bottle deposit laws. (And, yes, ec, I agree that it was an unfair tax. It should have been levied against all stores selling disposable containers of any kind and not just convenience shops.)
Jim, How do the 11 states prevent bottles from the other 39 from coming in? Easy, they have a label identifying them as being from that state. And somehow, when the parks can charge fees willy nilly without legislative approval, I doubt seriously they would be prevented from implementing a bottle deposit. You and Lee can come up with all the excuses you want but a bottle deposit would be a far more acceptable, practical and effective practice.

EC, any idea how much it would cost for the bottling companies to put some sort of labeling on bottles to identify which state they came from? And if you could somehow convince the bottlers to make such labels, what's to prevent them from being torn off?

Years ago, during a college job, I worked at a bottling line for Lysol. We put identifying labeling on each bottle with a marker system. Each shift we'd change the mark. Looking back, I can't imagine having to change that mark for shipments to specific states. And how many would you do for each state? Fewer for Wyoming than California, but how many?

And if you could figure that out, you'd have to segregate the shipments so Wyoming's bottles went to the Cowboy State and not, for instance, the Empire State. So you'd also have increased costs in shipping and handling to cope with.

State-specific labeling certainly seems impractical.

Frankly, might be easiest, and best, to make it a community service project for the local Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc. Once a month bring a dumpster to the park and send the scouts out to collect bottles.

ec - understand, I'm not at all opposed to a deposit system. For the reasons cited above, I just think it's more complicated that we blithely predict in this forum. While I'm a bit surprised that you'd suggest anything that puts any additional costs or burden on any business enterprise, I'm pleased to see your support for the idea.

[quote] any idea how much it would cost for the bottling companies to put some sort of labeling on bottles to identify which state they came from? And if you could somehow convince the bottlers to make such labels, what's to prevent them from being torn off? [/quote] You wouldn't have to get the bottlers to put it on, the clerk could put on a sticker at the register. And why in the world would anyone tear it off. If they did, they couldn't get the refund. If it tears off accidentally, tough. You guys need to stop being such pessimists. I have complete faith in mans ability to address any of these issues - as long as he is allowed to.
Well, then step back out of the way and stop trying to obstruct some of the ways that people are proposing actions that do not piddle on your own post toasties in any manner. Or are only your ways allowed?
ec has to be trolling. He can't possibly be serious. " I have complete faith in mans ability to address any of these issues - as long as he is allowed to." Can anyone imagine the screaming, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the business community if anyone were to even think of asking a store owner to have his clerks attach stickers to bottles? Anyone want to bet that our good friend would be right there in front leading the charge to defend the store owners' "rights?"
So he wants to make more work for the employees of the concessionaires, even though the concessionaires were actually in favor of the ban in the first place. Never mind all the time the clerk will have to spend explaining why the deposit fee is being charged and how to redeem it.
[quote]even though the concessionaires were actually in favor of the ban in the first place [/quote] Really? If they were in favor of not selling plastic bottles, they wouldn't sell plastic bottles. There wouldn't need to be a ban.
[quote]Can anyone imagine the screaming, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the business community if anyone were to even think of asking a store owner to have his clerks attach stickers to bottles?[/quote] Not me. Give them a cut of the deposit and they will be more than happy to accommodate. Once again you represent the epitome of negativism.
Ah, so. Buy their cooperation. Sounds like our Utah legislators or our late and unlamented Attorney General.
Your goal is to not have plastic bottle litter ( not really but we will pretend). If you reach your goal, is it bad for someone to make a profit in the process?
Not at all. But so far, all your "solutions" have required some large stretches of the imagination. Profitability is increasing in the recycling business and will hopefully lead to greater use of recycling. But that still may not be a mitigating factor in wastefulness. Do we REALLY need throw away bottles, cups, and other containers? Americans have been hoodwinked by clever advertising into seeking convenience -- usually at greater expense to all of us. What percentage of the prices of many common products is tied up in packaging that will be thrown away within thirty seconds of trying to get the item blasted loose from its plastic fortification? Could gasoline prices be reduced if the oil consumed by packaging were being used for fuel instead? Would air quality -- and atmospheric warming -- be helped by production of less plastic? How many unexpected consequences are we purchasing for this battered old world in our mad culture of consumption? Perhaps we need to start asking ourselves, "Is this REALLY necessary?"

I realize we're endulging ec in this banter, but I couldn't resist responding to this one:

"I have complete faith in mans ability to address any of these issues - as long as he is allowed to."

In this particular case, one way "man" is addressing these issues is by providing a cost-effective alternative to throw-away water bottles, and making it easy to use them.

Are the parks listed above trying to encourage people to move in that direction by banning throw-away sales? Yes, but they aren't forcing people to do so, since anyone is welcome to purchase such bottles outside the parks and bring them along during a park visit.

In my case, some years ago a family member encouraged my wife and I to give reusable water bottles a try. We did, made the switch, and have happily saved a lot of money as a result.

A key reason for all this discussion is that there's disagreement among those commenting about what consititues the "issues." In ec's case, unlimited use of plastic throw-away bottles isn't an issue. Others here have pointed out the broader "cost" of those bottles, and take the opposite view.

Some minds aren't easily changed, or they just enjoy the debate.

[quote]In this particular case, one way "man" is addressing these issues is by providing a cost-effective alternative to throw-away water bottles, and making it easy to use them. [/quote] Forcing an inconvenience is hardly progress.
[quote]Do we REALLY need throw away bottles, cups, and other containers? [/quote] Who are you to decide what someone needs? What does "need" have to do with anything. Are we to live in caves and hunt with spears because in reality we don't "need" anything more than that? I am far from "stretching imagination" but you don't appear to have any. Why are you so pessimistic? Why do you see everything as evil? Why can't you take any joy in man's accomplishments and progress.
ec--I hardly think the use and discarding of plastic bottles is mark of man's "accomplishments and progress". Rick
[quote]-I hardly think the use and discarding of plastic bottles is mark of man's "accomplishments and progress". [/quote] Well given that 50 billion are sold in the US every year, I would say there are millions of people that would disagree with you.
Forcing an inconvenience is hardly progress. EC, How is your suggestion not forcing an inconvenience. It's just forcing it on another group.
[quote]It's just forcing it on another group.[/quote] How so?
ec--A person as smart as you appear to be surely must recognize the difference between "man's accomplishment and progress" and just simple convenience. If you don't, then the first part of the above sentence is not true. Rick