Alexandria, VA – The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) applauds the action by the U.S. House of Representatives halting National Park Service (NPS) policy that allows for banning the sale of bottled water in America’s national parks, thereby ensuring visitors have access to all types of water, the healthy-hydration option. On July 7, 2015, the House passed an amendment by Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA) to the House Interior Appropriations bill, H.R. 2822, which prohibits the NPS from using any funds to implement or maintain bans on the sale of bottled water at any national park.
A 2011 NPS policy allows national parks to ban the sale of bottled water in plastic containers. The House’s rejection of that policy is a vote for public health and safety. Bans on the sale of bottled water contradict the NPS’s Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative, which promotes more healthy food and beverage choices in national parks, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Drink Up Initiative, which encourages the consumption of all types of water, whether filtered, tap, or bottled.
This action by the House is supported by research published May 14, 2015, in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), which confirms that bans or restrictions on the sale of bottled water increase consumption of less-healthy beverages and are an ineffective means of reducing plastic waste. The study ,“The Unintended Consequences of Changes in Beverage Options and the Removal of Bottled Water on a University Campus,” concluded that a bottled water sales ban at the University of Vermont (UVM) – which is very similar to the national parks sales bans – resulted not only in a significant increase in the consumption of sugary drinks but also an increase, rather than a reduction, in the amount of plastic bottles entering the waste stream.
NPS previously had reported that it established its bottled water sales ban policy due to concerns about waste left behind by park visitors. However, the policy singles out bottled water – an odd choice given the fact that bottled water products have the smallest environmental footprint of any packaged beverage. The policy does not apply to any other packaged food or beverage product or plastic waste that visitors dispose of in national parks. Interestingly, the 19 national parks that NPS reports have eliminated sales of bottled water apparently are not tracking the impacts of those bans – even though the NPS policy directive states they must. In fact, the NPS has admitted that the national parks that have implemented bans do not have the data available to conduct any post-ban analysis.
Research has shown that when bottled water isn’t available, 63 percent of people will choose soda or another sugary drink – not tap water. “We also know that when bottled water is not available in a vending machine, people choose other less-healthy packaged beverages, which may contain sugar, caffeine, and other additives. They may not have access to a water fountain or filling station while out hiking, camping, or running daily errands,” said Chris Hogan, IBWA Vice President of Communications.
“These bans, whether in national parks or college campuses, are misguided attempts to deal with a waste management issue that would be better addressed through efforts to improve recycling rates of all packaged drinks,” said Hogan. Single-serve bottled water containers use less plastic than other beverage containers and are the most highly recycled beverage containers in curbside programs. Data derived from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures demonstrate that plastic water bottles make up less than one-third of one percent of the U.S. waste stream.
The Rothfus amendment would not prohibit parks from continuing to authorize the sale of other beverages or from providing tap water filling stations to promote hydration.
“IBWA applauds Congressman Rothfus for recognizing access to bottled water as a key component of healthy hydration. We thank Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) for their leadership and support of this amendment. We now call on the U.S. Senate to include the provision in its Park Service funding bill,” said Hogan.
More information about bottled water can be found at www.bottledwater.org.