Did the Park Service bow to pressure from Coca Cola on its bottle ban?
by Nathan Rice
It was an ambitious plan: Ban the sale of individual plastic water bottles in the Grand Canyon to cut waste in the nation's second-most visited national park. But in December 2010, just two weeks before the prohibition was to take effect, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis postponed it indefinitely, citing impacts to concessionaires and public safety risks in the hot desert setting. A recent New York Times article reports that Steve Martin, the park's superintendent at the time, was upset about possible corporate influence on the decision. The Coca-Cola Company, which sells Dasani and other bottled water brands, had expressed concerns about the ban to the National Park Foundation, which handles donations to national parks. "Banning anything is never the right answer," Coke spokeswoman Susan Stribling told the Times. The Park Service met with Coke, the bottling industry and concessionaires to discuss it. In November, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued the Park Service for access to records on the switch; agency officials insist there was no corporate meddling. It's unlikely a ban would have hurt Coke much, but setting a precedent for other parks could be bad for business.
309,000 Approximate number of plastic water bottles disposed of in Grand Canyon National Park in 2010
30 Estimated percent of those bottles that was recycled
30 Estimated percent of Grand Canyon's waste stream composed of plastic water bottles
$289,000 Dollars spent by the park to install 10 water-bottle filling stations in preparation for the plastic bottle ban
$300,000 Estimated retail value of bottled water sold in the park in a given year
$14 million Minimum amount that the Coca-Cola Company has donated to all parks over the last 40 years, including money for a recycling program on the National Mall
$22.4 million Grand Canyon National Park's 2010 operating budget
$35 billion Coca Cola Company's 2010 net operating revenues
2009 Year in which Zion National Park received a National Park Service environmental achievement award for banning plastic water bottles
60,000 Minimum number of water bottles eliminated in the first year of Zion's program
SOURCES: National Park Service, The Coca-Cola Company