National Park Service proves ``Bottle-Ban Policy`` helps environment...then promptly ends the program
In an act that seems to defy reason (and its own internal research findings), the Trump administration has ended an Obama-era program banning the sale of disposable plastic water bottles in national parks. The decision, announced by the National Park Service (NPS) in mid-August, came months after the program’s Evaluation Report showed it was successful.
The report states clearly that it is the mission of the NPS to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations…(and) in support of the mission, the NPS seeks to…reduce the environmental footprint of its operations and assets and improve resource efficiencies.” And the findings in the NPS report couldn’t show more evident signs of success.
According to the report, the yearly environmental benefits are staggering. The findings show an annual savings estimate up to 2.01 million disposable water bottles – meaning the program prevented anywhere from 73,724 to 111,743 pounds of plastic waste. In turn, this resulted in an estimated conservation of 276-419 cubic yards of landfill space (not to mention the prevented emissions & energy consumption). The National Park Service began to collect participating sites’ results starting in September 2016. Of the 417 NPS sites across the United States, only 23 were recognized as fully compliant with the NPS program requirements; therefore, only the results from those 23 sites used to compile the report (though at least 16 additional submitted, which the NPS report recognized their “additional data would [emphasize the] increase [of ] the environmental benefits stated in this report.”
All of this comes into focus after a new global peer-reviewed study published in the journal Science Advances presented “the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured” – and the findings horrified consumers and environmentalists alike. Though the large-scale fabrication of plastics (otherwise known as synthetic organic polymers) only dates back to the 1950s, the study estimates 8.3 billion metric tons plastics have been manufactured to-date.
Incredibly, approximately three-quarters of that (6.3 billion metric tons) has become plastic waste. The study found “around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.” If all this wasn’t bad enough, the study concludes “if current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt [12 billion metric tons] of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.” Let’s keep in mind, folks: when we say “natural environment”, we’re not only talking about trash thrown from car windows or abandoned in national parks, but also our deep oceans, where it’s been found to have contaminated our food supply (a critical discussion we shall explore in another article).
Stated simply (and quoting a recent Washington Post headline), “there’s literally a ton of plastic garbage for every person on Earth.”
As reported in National Geographics, the study’s lead author Roland Geyer stated, “it’s not just that we make a lot, it’s that we also make more, year after year.” Further explained, “the rapid acceleration of plastic manufacturing, which so far has doubled roughly every 15 years, has outpaced nearly every other man-made material. And, it is unlike virtually every other material. Half of all steel produced, for example, is used in construction, with a decades-long lifespan. Half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year.” And please remember, it takes over 400 years for plastics to deteriorate.
While we keep in mind these illuminating revelations from both reports, the NPS’s decision last month appears baffling and should make every citizen demand to know why such a backward decision was made. Well, as it just so happens, there was a fierce opponent of the environmental policy. As The Hill reported, the International Bottled Water Association has been criticizing and lobbying against the policy since it was instated, arguing that it “only encouraging the end of sales of bottled water and not other drinks like soda and juice.”
According to Lauren DeRusha Florez (a campaign director for Corporate Accountability International) quoted in the Washington Post, “the bottled water industry has led a years-long campaign against this commonsense policy, all to protect its bottom line…The fact that Trump administration officials knew the benefits of this policy back in May but still decided to rescind it… sure looks to me like the bottled water industry’s lobbying dollars at work.” An argument to which we’ll add here is this Mother Jones article pointing out that the lobbying group International Bottled Water Association “spent nearly five times more on lobbying last year than it did before the ban program was enacted.”
If at the end of this you find yourself bewildered and a bit enraged, remember the current administration has repeatedly said they are considering eliminating or downsizing some of our most beautiful National Monuments and Parks and have stated that they intend to open up these lands for mining or drilling. Quoted from this Mother Jones article, Ben Schreiber, the senior political strategist at Friends of the Earth, calls this possible move “blatant handouts to the oil and gas industry.”
The article reminds us “any such land would still be federally managed, but losing monument status would strip it of national park-like protections, which forbid new leases for grazing, oil, gas, and mining.”
It would seem that the new stewards of our natural parks, lands, and monuments care little about their cultural importance, and care even less about protecting these environmental gems for the generations to come.
You can read the official NPS report here and the official NPS rescinding statement here.