Water Bottle Ban Lifted in National Parks


In 2011, Policy Memorandum 11-03 was put in place which banned the sale of disposable water bottles at national parks. While there are 417 national parks service sites in the United States, only 23 of these parks have implemented this ban.

Water bottle debris concerns were the initial reason for the bottle ban in 2011. Officials were seeing increasing amounts of plastic bottle litter throughout the parks, and a ban on bottles seemed like a viable fix to the problem.

There are many important aspects of lifting this ban that should be explored. The potential problems that could come from the ban being lifted, the positive side of the ban lift, and what parks can expect once it is lifted are all important to consider. By understanding the complexities surrounding the revocation of this memorandum, the impact of this official action can be understood more clearly.

Valid Concerns
Some park officials are worried that lifting the ban on bottled water is going to have negative effects on the nation’s parks. The main concern is water bottles not being disposed of properly. When people litter, especially with water bottles, serious harm can be done to the wildlife and the natural beauty of parks.

Wildlife is at risk of swallowing or getting stuck in the plastic caps, rings, and pieces from bottles. This can lead to needing to rehabilitate the animals or, worse yet, the animals dying from injuries sustained from the bottles.

In addition to the suffering of the wildlife, the natural landscape of parks is affected by bottle debris. As guests overlook the scenic landscape, seeing bottles scattered on the ground takes away from the overall experience of the parks.

The Silver Lining
While the ban has helped to reduce the amount of bottled water waste in the parks that have implemented it, there are some positives things that will come from the revocation of the ban.

As it stands, water is the only bottled beverage that is affected by the ban. This means that businesses can sell other bottled drinks, like soda and sports drinks, but not water. Therefore, guests who come to the parks without a reusable water bottle would be forced to purchase an unhealthy drink that is full of sugar, even if they would rather purchase water.

Also, with bottled water quickly becoming the most popular beverage on the market, park businesses are missing a chance to make a profit from water sales. These profits can go to beautifying the parks and keeping more park businesses open.

The Impact on Parks
In the 23 parks that implemented this ban, the revocation of Policy Memorandum 11-03 will certainly bring some changes. Once water can be sold in the parks, they will have to encourage guests to dispose of the bottles properly rather than litter the park with their waste.

Parks may place more recycling and trash bins in popular areas to further encourage visitors to be responsible with their bottles. Though water can be purchased, parks will still have free water bottle filling stations for guests who bring reusable bottles or would like to reuse their disposable bottle to save on waste and money.

Hopefully, once the ban is revoked, guests will continue to realize the importance of reusable water bottles and disposing of recyclables responsibly. It is everyone’s job to keep the parks clean and, with any luck, guests will be aware of that during their adventures in the national parks.

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