National Parks Are Piling Up With Poop and Trash Because of the Government Shutdown

Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

As Congress continues to search for common ground over partisan issues, the freeze on government activity is beginning to manifest itself in some visible—and visibly disgusting—ways. With some federal employees on furlough, the nation’s beloved parks are falling into disarray. Piles of trash and even human feces are now contributing to an increasing blight on our public lands.

The Associated Press reports that the federal government shutdown has forced rangers and other staff to stay on the sidelines while many national parks remain open to the public. With no one picking up after them, visitors are leaving behind a considerable amount of waste. One Yosemite Valley resident told the AP that the sight of overflowing trash receptacles and illegal behavior is “heartbreaking.” A Los Angeles Times story noted that visitors are urinating and defecating on the sides of roads because the park has closed the restrooms.

Park officials have closed some iconic sites—like Yosemite's Mariposa Grove—due to an overrun of trash or if a lack of supervision could result in damage to historical areas, pose a risk to public safety, or endanger wildlife.

In the absence of supervision, some local business owners and volunteers have taken to picking up trash and arbitrating disputes over campground sites. At Joshua Tree National Park in California, people have been hanging holiday lights on the fragile trees and participating in illegal off-roading. The park closed its camp sites on Wednesday to offset additional problems.

The waste crisis will likely continue until the shutdown has been resolved. The National Park Service tweeted on December 22 that while some areas will remain accessible during the stand-off, access “may change without notice.”

[h/t IFL Science]

Canned Aquafina Water May Be Coming to a Store Near You

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Like boxed cereal and egg cartons, bottled water is one of the most pervasive and familiar examples of consumer packaging around. But PepsiCo, which produces the LIFEWTR and Aquafina water brands, is looking to change that. The company recently announced a new strategy that would reduce its use of plastics and ultimately wean consumers off bottles entirely, turning them on to sipping water from aluminum cans instead.

According to The Takeout, Pepsi says it plans to change how its water is packaged in significant ways begining in 2020. The LIFEWTR brand will use plastic bottles, but the company plans to source those containers from 100 percent rPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Its bubly sparkling water line, meanwhile, will be sold in cans, rather than in both bottles and cans, as it currently is. So will Aquafina, one of the leading bottled water brands, though it will initially be offered in cans only at food service establishments while the company tests retail preferences. If all goes well, retail consumers will eventually be able to buy Aquafina in cans, too.

Such alterations would make for sweeping changes to the bottled water business, which has exploded in recent years. In 2016, the average American drank 39.3 gallons of packaged water per capita, edging out soda’s 38.5 gallons.

The move to cans stems in large part from consumer habits. Over half of all beer and soda cans are recycled compared to just 31.2 percent of plastic bottles.

PepsiCo expects the changes will result in saving more than 8800 tons of virgin plastic and 12,125 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The company is looking to make all of its packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable by 2025.

[h/t The Takeout]

Nestlé Has Created a Recyclable Snack Bar Wrapper

p_saranya, iStock / Getty Images Plus
p_saranya, iStock / Getty Images Plus

With the effects of climate change getting more dire by the decade, the pressure is on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in any way that we can. One of the easiest ways for consumers to take action is by recycling. Nestlé is the latest corporation to do its part in making that task a little easier: It recently announced that it will start packaging its line of YES! snack bars in a recyclable paper wrapper, Food & Wine reports.

Since Nestlé’s high-speed production lines mainly package products with plastic or thick laminate materials, the UK masterminds behind this new wrapper had to first create a paper that was sturdy enough to survive the packaging process, and then alter the machinery to function with a gentler touch. To highlight this change, the YES! bar wrappers include a line that says “carefully wrapped in paper,” according to Confectionery News. The developers also tested the new wrappers extensively to ensure that they would keep the bars in perfect condition through shipping and storage. The paper itself is sourced from sustainable forests that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

If you haven’t seen a YES! bar before, it might be because you live in the U.S. These Nestlé treats are currently available only in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

But Nestlé’s commitment to recycling reaches a brand you probably have seen in the U.S.: Poland Spring. Just last month, Food & Wine reported that Nestlé (which owns Poland Spring, as well as a whole slew of other popular brands you may not have realized) was making a shift to using recycled plastic for its Poland Spring bottles, and hopes to be using 100 percent recycled plastic for all of its still water bottles by 2022.

Nestlé isn’t the only corporation to make headlines lately with its environmentally friendly packaging innovations. Just a few weeks ago, Corona announced its plans for stackable beer cans, eliminating the need for those pesky plastic rings that can prove fatal to unsuspecting ocean-dwellers like turtles.

And, because recycling isn’t all about food and drink containers, here are 25 surprising things you didn’t know you could recycle.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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