Grand Canyon Abandons Bottled Water Ban, After Meetings With Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola got some brownie points yesterday for a plan to boost recycling at next year's Olympics, but today it's back to business as usual. Turns out the company has been using its dollars and influence to stop the Grand Canyon from banning disposable plastic bottles in the park.

That's the suspicion at least, according to a New York Times story that starts off:

Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.

Concessionaires had been instructed to stop plastic water bottle sales by January 1 to reduce litter, save money from trash hauling, and shrink its greenhouse gas footprint, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. But two weeks prior to the start date, according to The Times:

Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.

Disposable plastic bottles make up about a third of the Grand Canyon's waste stream—the single most popular item, according to the park official who'd put together the plan, as quoted in The Times.

It's not like visitors to the park would go thirsty. PEER says that according to documents it obtained through FOIA, Grand Canyon spent more than $310,000 to build ten new water “filling stations” so that visitors using canteens or other reusable containers would have ample access to high quality water. Utah's Zion National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park both already have similar bans in place.

With requests this summer for records from the National Park Service (NPS) director already ignored, PEER filed a lawsuit today "to obtain records on this policy u-turn after NPS declined to surrender them."

Tags: Arizona | Bottled Water | Plastics | Waste

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