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Local View: Aluminum cans better than plastic bottles for BWCAW

I often wonder why plastic bottles are still legal to bring into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with all of the knowledge of the potential environmental damage caused by them.

I often wonder why plastic bottles are still legal to bring into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with all of the knowledge of the potential environmental damage caused by them.

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Tom Romundstad

According to the BWCAW website, "Cans and glass bottles are not allowed. Containers of fuel, insect repellent, medicines, personal toilet articles, and other items that are not foods or beverages are the only cans and bottles you may keep in their original containers. Food may be packaged in plastic containers that must be packed out with you."

I feel the state of Minnesota should reconsider this and allow aluminum beverage containers instead of plastic bottles.

As the owner of a bottle shop and beer cave, I hear from customers that they prefer plastic because plastic can be burned and then doesn't have to be packed out. That's just wrong. To smell the smoldering plastic as it melts into a campfire is so offensive to the experience of being in the beautiful pristine wilderness. Plus, there are the toxins emitted by the burning plastics.

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Why not allow aluminum? The cans are lightweight and easily can be crushed. They take up less space, providing incentive to pack them out.

Even if they are left behind accidentally or intentionally, an aluminum container is preferable to be found than plastic lying around a campsite, trail, portage, or lake. Aluminum can be infinitely recycled, to boot, and is often already made of recycled aluminum products.

Until recently, a couple of domestic brewers bottled a limited number of bottles of beer in plastic, mostly to provide a container that's legal for use in these areas during the peak season. As of last year, I could no longer purchase these six-packs in plastic. Their production stopped. There are still the larger 40-ounce plastic bottles of beer, however.

Plastic containers that some wines, spirits, and sodas come in easily can be rebottled into other types of containers by campers prior to their trips.

Statistics show that very few of the total number of plastic bottles purchased are actually being properly recycled. Most wind up on the land, in landfills, or in our waterways. Each plastic container takes anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to fully disintegrate. They are harmful to the food chain and have an adverse effect on both flora and fauna. One quarter of the volume of any given bottle is equal to the amount of crude oil it took to produce the bottle. Since Minnesota is a mining state, I would rather support that industry than Big Oil.

Until the plastics are made of a more organic product that isn't harmful to the environment, they should be banned everywhere, in my opinion.

Many craft beer brewers' aluminum cans are made from more than 50 percent recycled material. Bent Paddle Brewery of Duluth points out that, "The can is the container of choice when on the water or hiking the trails."

Let's begin allowing them into places like the BWCAW. Cans are just better for the environment.

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Tom Romundstad is the owner of Gramma Polo's Bottle Shoppe and Beer Cave in Scanlon.

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