H.R. 4236

Reducing Waste in National Parks Act

STATEMENT OF LENA MCDOWALL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS ON H.R. 4236, A BILL TO ENCOURAGE RECYCLING AND REDUCTION OF DISPOSABLE PLASTIC BOTTLES IN UNITS OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

February 27, 2020

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Chairwoman Haaland, Ranking Member Young, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 4236, a bill to encourage recycling and reduction of disposable plastic bottles in units of the National Park System, and for other purposes. 

The Department does not support enactment of H.R. 4236. 

H.R. 4236 would require each National Park Service (NPS) regional director to establish a program for recycling and reducing disposable plastic bottles within park units, including eliminating the sale of water in disposable plastic bottles in park units if several factors are considered. H.R. 4236 would also require each regional director to develop a visitor education strategy to establish visitor expectations of water availability and explain the disposable plastic bottle recycling and reduction program.  The disposable plastic bottle recycling and reduction program would need to be incorporated into agreements with organizations operating within the National Park System units, including concessioners and cooperating associations. Not less than every two years, each regional director would be required to evaluate the recycling and reduction of disposable plastic bottles using criteria included in the proposed legislation.

Encouraging recycling and the reduction of waste at national park units has been a goal for the NPS.  Since 1998, it has been the Department’s policy that each of its bureaus develop, implement, and conduct thorough recycling programs that assure compliance with the spirit and intent of applicable Federal, State, and local recycling requirements and provisions; promote sound environmental practices by preventing pollution and recovering resources through recycling; and educate and monitor for recycling participation at all of its activities, including those of contractors and concessioners.

In 2011, the NPS instituted a program similar to that proposed in H.R. 4236, encouraging park managers to eliminate the sales of water in disposable plastic bottles, with the installation of water bottle filling stations in parks as one of the key pre-conditions to implementation.  However, the NPS rescinded this effort after a few years in 2017 in order to expand hydration choices for visitors. The program, which sought to eliminate sales of bottled water in fact removed the healthiest beverage choice while still allowing sales of bottled sweetened drinks, and did not result in a marked reduction in waste in the 23 parks that installed the program.  Rescinding the sales ban allowed visitors to decide for themselves how to best stay hydrated during a park visit.  Parks continue to promote the recycling of disposable plastic water bottles and many parks have worked with partners to provide free potable water in the bottle filling stations located at visitor centers and near trailheads.

From composting and dedicated recycling bins to water bottle filling stations to Propane Bottle Recycler machines which prepare lantern and camp stove fuel bottles for recycling, the NPS continues to implement new and innovative approaches to reduce waste in our landfills.  In 2018, the NPS achieved a nearly 40 percent service-wide waste diversion rate, diverting approximately 26,000 tons of waste from our landfills.  Many NPS sites utilize interpretive kiosks and active interpretive programs to inform and educate park visitors on the benefits of recycling, reducing and composting waste.

Chairwoman Haaland, this concludes my statement.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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