In mid-August the US President, Donald Trump, reversed the Obama administration’s ban on sale of disposable plastic water bottles at US National Parks.
Two dozen national parks had adopted the policy, or were in the process of doing so, including Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Zion National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The ban was part of President Obama’s Green Parks Plan to promote the use of tap water and refillable bottles on federal lands, reduce waste and curb carbon emissions.
To keep visitors hydrated, the Park Service has installed new fresh drinking water stations.
President Trump’s decision comes just three weeks after the Senate confirmed David Bernhardt as deputy interior secretary, with responsibility for National Parks. Bernhardt is a former lobbyist with a law firm that has represented water bottlers in the United States. Bernhardt’s confirmation was opposed by some senators because his work on behalf of corporate interests contradicts Interior Department regulations to promote clean air and water.
When announcing their ban on plastic water bottles the National Park Service said it was based on “the 50 billion plastic water bottles” disposed of by Americans each year and the “approximately 20 billion barrels of oil” required during production, generating greenhouse gases. Disposable plastic bottles make up 20% of the Grand Canyon’s waste stream and 30% of the park’s recyclables.
Following the ban, US National Parks reported that, given the choice, the public will choose reusable bottles whenever they can. Zion National Park, for example, reported that its sale of reusable bottles increased 78 percent once it banned bottled-water sales.
As we have previously reported, plastic waste is choking our planet and creating a global health crisis. In 2015, the world created 448 million tons of plastic — more than twice as much we made in 1998.
If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050. Approximately 91% of plastic made before 2015 has not been recycled. Our landfills are overflowing with plastic waste, and our recycling centres are overburdened and underequipped to properly repurpose the plastics being recycled.
As these systems fail, more and more plastic waste ends up in the streets, rivers, beaches, and eventually the oceans, causing untold harm to plant and animal life the world over.