Camping & Hiking News
"Ban" on Plastic Water Bottles in National Parks Lifted Under 2017 Trump Administration
Since 2011, the use of bottled water in national parks had declined as the Obama administration helped implement a policy to "ban" the use and sale of bottled water throughout U.S. national parks. Pretty eco-friendly you might think, huh? Well, recently the Trump administration lifted the so-called ban. We say "so-called ban" because it was not actually a full "ban" on plastic water bottles; only 23 out of the 417 national parks had some sort of restriction in place. There is a lot of talk on both sides and initially, one would think, how could this possibly be a good thing??
The policy had a few serious design flaws. For one, people coming into the parks with the ban in place could still purchase and bring with them other bottled beverages other than water! A lot of these sweeter, much less healthy, beverages come in thicker plastic bottles than a traditional bottle of water. This also includes cans of soda. So as you can see, the healthier alternative to keeping hydrated was now taken off the table, while leaving the less healthy options. There was a loophole that ultimately left the total benefit of the ban under question when you can simply bring a bottle of Vitamin Water for example, and create just as much waste or more.
The issue is not that simple, unfortunately. Some point out that the policy was an important first-step in reducing carbon footprint and increasing sustainability nationally. Bottled water companies have lobbied for years to stop bills like the ban from going through. This includes lobbying the Interior Department, which manages the National Parks Service. Allison Aubrey pointed out in her article on NPR.org that "...the Trump administration recently appointed a deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior who previously worked for a law firm that has represented one of the large companies that sell bottled water." Now, one might wonder if this is mere coincidence? We think not...it seems the Trump administration has found yet another way to manipulate the political agenda to reflect its own interests. Whether that helps or hurts the nation as a whole, they don't seem to care. The fact is, according to Beverage Digest, people buy more bottled water than soda and there is money to be made on these sales (obviously). Those who control and influence major consumer markets also influence legislation. It is this kind of perverted cycle that keeps our country from being where it needs to be on a variety of issues.
Recycling efforts are still in effect and are being re-vamped to try and tackle the waste issue in national parks. This combined with efforts to bring a tap system to the parks could help the issue. However, is it really enough? More people need to get outdoors. More people need to see the natural beauty that is ever-present if we were to just look away from that phone screen! Advocate for your local national park if you happen to be lucky enough to live by one. We can work toward a solution on many fronts but an effort to bring the problem to light in the public eye must be made. Inform your friends, inform the people you pass on a trail using a plastic water bottle that there are more eco-friendly ways to consume water and keep hydrated.