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Trump Reverses Plastic Water Bottle Ban in National Parks

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 8/22/2017 Mia Taylor

© Thinkstock The Trump administration has reversed an environmentally progressive Obama-era ban on the sale of bottled water at national parks that was designed to help cut down on plastic litter and pollution.

Established in 2011, the goal of the policy was to end the sale of bottled water and encourage visitors to use tap water and bring refillable bottles instead, NPR reported.

While the measure was never actually a ban, it did lead 23 out of 417 national parks, including some of the biggest and most famous such as Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, to institute restrictions on the sale of bottled water.

Critics of the measure, however, said it was flawed. It removed the healthiest beverage choice from parks and left sugary drinks, also sold in plastic, still available for sale. But rather than also prohibit the sale of sugary beverages, the park service has opted to end the six-year-old bottled water restriction.

"While we will continue to encourage the use of free water bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park," said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds in a statement.

The ban reversal has been condemned by many who see it as a significant setback for environmental efforts.

Those who support the ban say the Trump administration’s decision shows that the “corporate agenda is king and people and the environment are left behind,” according to The Guardian. 

That policy “was a win-win for everyone except the bottled water industry, which is only interested in its bottom line,” said Lauren DeRusha Florez, campaign director for Corporate Accountability International, a group that campaigns against corporate abuses.

Corporate Accountability International also noted that the bottled water industry had lobbied Congress to block the policy for years.

The ban reversal was announced by the National Park Service in a press release that closely mirrored arguments made against its implementation last year by the International Bottled Water Association, The Guardian reported.

Lobbying organization members make up some of the biggest and most powerful water bottlers in America including bottled water giant Nestlé, which sells Poland Springs, Perrier and San Pellegrino in North America.

The Sierra Club also issued a statement criticizing the reversal, according to NPR.

Sierra Club public lands policy director, Athan Manuel, said "actions that roll back protections on our National Parks and public lands only move our country backward — putting the importance of local economies, wildlife, and communities on the back burner."

Ending the ban also represents a significant change in attitude for park service leaders who six years ago encouraged America’s 417 federal parks to end bottled water sales, suggesting that the system needed to be “an exemplar of sustainability”.

Plastic bottles remain a significant environmental problem around the world. About one million plastic bottles are consumed per minute or roughly 20,000 per second worldwide, according to The Guardian. Environmental leaders are concerned that the growth in plastic water bottle sales could cause serious problems as recycling efforts fail to keep up with demand.

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