IBWA Comments on National Park Service’s Contradiction about Bottled Water and Healthy Food Standards

International Bottled Water Association | MEDIA RELEASE | June 24, 2013

IBWA Comments on National Park Service’s Contradiction about Bottled Water and Healthy Food Standards

Alexandria, VA – The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) today issued the following statement concerning the recent contradictory efforts by the National Park Service to ban the sale of bottled water in certain parks, while at the same time promoting healthier menus at national park facilities.

“This summer, Americans and travelers from around the world look forward to visiting our country’s amazing network of historic national parks. Whether hiking along soaring peaks or taking photos of deep ravines, guests will find that the National Park Service (NPS) is the custodian of some of greatest terrestrial treasures in the United States. However, when they arrive at any destination administered by the NPS, they might also notice a lack of bottled water products available to meet their healthy hydration needs.

Some activist groups have urged the NPS to ban bottled water completely from America’s national parks. In response, a few “national park units” (the term used to describe the various types of sites NPS manages, historic sites as well as nature parks) have already banned the sale of bottled water. This is an odd and inconsistent choice given that the NPS has recently implemented an ambitious healthy foods strategy as part of its “Healthy Parks Healthy People” program. With a goal of encouraging park goers to make smart, healthy dining choices, the NPS is actively promoting the initiative by selling more healthy foods.  However, when it comes to packaged beverage choices, some park visitors may only have the option of purchasing sugary drinks, not zero-calorie, refreshing bottled water.

The Healthy Beverage Choice

Rather than eliminating the ability of consumers to purchase bottled water—the healthiest package beverage on the shelf—the NPS should be looking for  more ways to increase the availability of clean, safe drinking water in national parks, especially if other packaged beverages that contain sugar and  additives are sold on site. Such efforts would complement campaigns to promote healthy hydration, which might include placing bottle refilling stations and water fountains throughout the parks. Access to bottled water is a key component of healthy hydration for “healthy people,” so it should not be discouraged, prohibited, or overlooked when discussing water’s role in a healthier lifestyle.

Banning the sale of bottled water in the U.S. national parks robs consumers of the right to purchase healthy, reliable, zero-calorie, caffeine-free, additive-free bottled water where other packaged beverages are sold. In fact, in direct contradiction to its stated goal of supporting healthier menu choices, banning bottled water forces consumers to choose less-healthy drink options that are proven to have more packaging, more additives (e.g., sugar, caffeine), and greater environmental impact than bottled water.

Industry research shows that when bottled water isn’t available, 63 percent of people will choose soda or another sugary drink—not tap water. It is logical to expect the same consumer response if access to bottled water is removed in the NPS.

A Focus on the Environment

The bottled water industry is a strong supporter of our environment and our natural resources.  In fact, bottled water’s environmental footprint is the lowest of any packaged beverage according to a life cycle assessment conducting by Quantis in 2010.

All bottled water containers are one-hundred percent recyclable. According to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), the national recycling rate for single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers is now at 38.6 percent; a figure that has more than doubled in the last seven years.

And, the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) found that over the last 11 years (2000-2011) the average weight of a 16.9 ounce (half-liter) single-serve PET plastic bottled water container has dropped by 48 percent, to 9.9 grams.  Due to carbonation and packaging methods, sodas and sport drink bottles actually require heavier bottles and are therefore not able to reduce the amount of plastic they use.

In fact, many bottled water companies are already using recycled plastic in their bottles and some are producing 100 percent recycled PET water bottles.  And, according to NAPCOR, PET plastic bottled water containers are the most frequently recycled PET beverage container in curbside recycling programs.

Of all the plastics produced in the United States, PET plastic bottled water packaging makes up only 0.91 percent; less than one percent.  U.S. 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 bottled water industry supports strong community recycling programs, including those utilized throughout America’s national parks.  The bottled water industry also recognizes the importance of a sustained focus on increasing recycling efforts and we continually look for ways to strengthen those programs ever further. IBWA would be pleased to engage in additional conversations with the national parks about ways in which we might be able to work together on recycling initiatives.”

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Media Contact:
Chris Hogan
[email protected]

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters, including spring, mineral, purified, artesian, and sparkling. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, to set comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products.  

In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is a mandatory annual plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.  

IBWA is proud to be a partner with Keep America Beautiful and a supporter of Drink Up, an initiative of former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which encourages Americans to drink more water more often – whether from the tap, a filter, or in a bottle. Choosing water is always the healthy choice.