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Environment: Six more national parks ban sale of disposable water bottles

New policies encourage reduction of solid waste

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Colorado National Monument has banned the sale of disposable plastic water bottles.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Another half-dozen national parks ended the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in 2013, bringing the total number of parks with bans to more than 20.

For most parks, disposable plastic water bottles represent one of the biggest sources of trash, but the move toward ending sales of plastic bottles in national parks has been hampered by resistance from Coca Cola, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The watchdog group has tracked the halting progress of the agency’s move to limit the environmentally damaging bottles. By some estimates, more than 16 million barrels of oil are needed annually to produce the plastic for all the disposable bottles sold in the U.S. in one year. That production process also requires twice the amount of water that’s actually contained within the bottles.

In 2012, under a new policy that required a regional NPS review of proposed bans, only a few parks moved to eliminate the bottles. But no requests to ban the bottles were turned down. In 2013, national parks in Colorado, Texas, North Carolina and Utah adopted bans.

In Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction, park officials acknowledged that plastic bottles were a big part of an increasing litter problem along Rim Rock Drive.

“These bottles are also the largest contributor to litter along ledges below the canyon rims and and be costly and dangerous to remove,” Colorado National Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert wrote in her request for a ban.

“In addition, waste associated with disposable bottles has become a noticeable part of the park’s waste stream, compromising an estimated 10% ofthe park’s recyclables …There are significant environmental and monetary costs associated with the removal of litter, transport of litter to landfills, and recycle centers. As an effort to worktowards “Greening” our park and being fiscally responsible, Colorado National Monument would like to eliminate the sale of water packaged in disposable water bottles starting March 2013.”

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.

“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 director Jeff Ruch.

“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,” Ruch said, referring to a stated NPS goal of cutting the agency’s solid waste stream 50 percent by 2015.

“Many more national parks would be bottle free if the Park Service provided national leadership,” Ruch said, suggesting that the agency’s green policies may be weakened by its efforts to raise corporate endowment funds.

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