Water Bottle Industry Blocks National Park Ban on Disposable Bottle Sales
After the National Park Service attempted to cut down on discarded water bottles, water bottle companies have stepped forward to block the attempt with an amendment to a House spending bill. The National Park Service's goal was to stop selling disposable bottles at parks, and instead let visitors refill reusable bottles at public refill stations.
A last-minute amendment was successfully added to the government appropriations bill that was passed last week, prohibiting the National Park Service from using tax money to cut back on plastic bottles in parks.
According to the Wilderness Society, 23 national parks, including Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park and Mount Rushmore, have banned disposable water bottles. More parks, including Mount Rainier National Park in Washington and California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, are expected to adopt the ban this year.
The companies that manufacture water bottle brands, including Deer Park, Fiji, Evian and more, lobbied against the National Park Service's proposed ban on water bottle sales.
"This is a prominent, misleading attack on bottled water that has no justification," Chris Hogan, vice president of communications for the International Water Bottle Association (IBWA), told The Washington Post. The International Water Bottle Association represents 200 bottlers.
The opposition claims that this ban would cause park visitors to choose other, less healthy beverages, such as soda or sugary drinks instead of water.
John Jarvis, Park Service director, told The Washington Post that he sent a memo to the system's 407 national parks, monuments and historical sites in 2011, allowing them to stop selling disposable water bottles. He said that the bottles were filling waste receptacles and wasting recycling budget resources at many parks.
"We must be a visible exemplar of sustainability," he wrote. "When considered on a life-cycle basis, the use of disposable plastic water bottles has significant environmental impact compared to the use of local tap water and refillable bottles."
After Hogan wrote him a letter in April, Jarvis acknowledged Hogan's concerns over unhealthy alternatives, saying that some users may not be able to afford reusable water bottles.
The IBWA has spent around $510,000 since 2011 to lobby members of Congress. House Republicans questioned Jarvis at a hearing on the Park Service budget this spring. Jarvis noted that parks that stop the sale of plastic bottles do not necessarily ban the use of them. Visitors can still bring their own. Also, in order for a park to eliminate water bottle sales, it needs to post signs that show visitors where to refill their bottles.