The Downward Spiral of Repealing the National Parks Bottled Water Ban

By Rich Razgaitis, CEO and Co-Founder of FloWater

The Trump Administration announced a repeal of the bottled water ban throughout our National Park system last week. 

Amidst the current political turbulence among a series of hot button issues this decision might seem trivial, but it’s really not. Here’s why: 

It’s an illogical decision driven purely by the undue influence of companies who profit from it. 

This repeal represents a decision steeped in tacit approval of the lobbying power of big business with profit-at-any-cost-to-the-environment motivations. This represents a policy reversal in order to drive the profitability of companies that package and distribute single-use plastic water bottles. And let’s be clear, it’s no coincidence that this repeal comes weeks after the Senate confirmation of David Bernhardt as deputy interior secretary—whose involvement included his prior law firms’ work on behalf of one of the largest single-use plastic water bottlers in the United States.

It’s a decision that’s unduly influenced by behind-the-scenes deal making, special interests, and back-pocketing big corporations and lobbyist groups that nearly all Americans—on both the left and the right—have grown to despise. The opposition of which was one of the very building blocks that created a platform for two constituents (Sanders and Trump) ideologies that most agree represented the more extreme sides of the political spectrum. 

For those who supported Trump, this repeal of an important environmental policy - which only works to support big corporations single-use bottled water profit motives - is an explicit example of the very type of deal-making they declared, and specifically voted, that they were against. 

The basis for this decision is a significant step backwards for environmental initiatives, and an even bigger one in terms of our political leadership’s ability to separate solid policy decision making from the undue influence of powerful corporations and lobbyists that thwart forward progress of powerful policy that supports building a sustainable ecosystem. 

As an American who cares deeply about our environmental stewardship and our future ecological system that we’re responsible to pass onto our children, not only do I oppose the decision based on the environmental impact, I vehemently oppose it based on the basis of the conflict of interest represented by our new deputy interior secretary.

This represents a significant step backwards on environmental issues. 

The writer Wallace Stegner called our National Park system “The best idea we’ve ever had” and the idea of which was simple: to make sure America’s greatest National Treasures remain protected and preserved forever—and for everyone. The entire basis of our National Park System is one of conservationism. 

Yet, here are the facts about single use plastic water bottles.

  • The majority of 9 billion tons of plastic created since the 1950’s are still lingering around—though only about 20 percent of those products remain in use. 
  • Most plastic water bottles do not biodegrade; instead they photo degrade. One piece turns into two, four, eight, and so on—until the microparticulate are embedded into organic matter and poison our entire ecological and food system. 
  • American’s consume nearly 50 billion single-use plastic water bottles each year—80 percentof which end up polluting our oceans, lakes, rivers, and landfills
  • To produce these bottles it requires the use of 20 billion barrels of oil, not to mention the millions of tons of CO2 byproduct emissions via the production process itself
  • The Grand Canyon National Park alone estimates that bottled water alone represented 300 tons of garbage required for annual disposal. 
  • Nearly half of all bottled water is glorified and repurposed tap water, which comes from municipal tap water sources—at 10,000 times the cost of tap water. 
  • The plastics within bottled water can be laced with chemicals that can contain thousands of endocrine (hormone) disruptors, which can permeate into the very water you drink. Not only does each bottle pollute the environment but it also pollutes your body. 
  • A recent study of women in pregnancy showed those who drank bottled water vs. those who did not had babies that were significantly more obese at birth—this is the resultant effect of exposure to hormone-disrupting toxins that leech through plastic bottles over the short period of development in utero. 

Even though only about 30 percent of the National Parks have implemented a bottled water ban, with 300 million people visiting the National Parks each year this repeal has squandered an opportunity to educate and encourage people to do right by the environment and their own health by eliminating the use of single-use plastic water bottles. 

Plastic pollution threatens wildlife. Entanglement, ingestion, and habitat disruption all result from plastic ending up in the spaces where animals live. 

Plastic pollution threatens wildlife. Entanglement, ingestion, and habitat disruption all result from plastic ending up in the spaces where animals live. 

Those supporting the repeal using arguments around the allowable sale of sugary beverages within the National Parks are missing the point and use it only as a red herring. To make forward progress with ideology, one must not use remedial arguments of “well, it’s better than…” And if there were a better argument, it would be one that substantiates a narrative around creating less governmental intervention in the free market—a general premise upon which I subscribe. Yet, there are critical and important measures where the government and policy should intervene—and this is yet one example. National Parks are funded by each of the tax-paying Americans in an effort to preserve and protect the environment—using “policy” to help extend those measures to keep the environmental toxifying effects, as well direct and indirect costs, of single-use plastic water bottles out of our National Parks is a premise rooted neither in a “right” or “left” viewpoint. Instead it is a pragmatic one towards doing right for sustainability—versus the profits of a few companies at our expense.

Instead, with this repeal it’s a considerable step backwards. One that removes sound sustainable policy designed specifically to support an ecosystem whose sole intent is to preserve some of our greatest natural resources in the United States—and we’re doing this by re-entrenching consumers access to an environmental cigarette: single-use plastic water bottles. 

Rich Razgaitis is the CEO and Co-Founder of FloWater. FloWater was founded in 2013 by a passionate team dedicated to a single mission: to put an end to single-use plastic water bottles while changing the way the world views water.