Corporate Interests Rule: Parks Chief Blocks Bottled Water Ban

Americans buy an estimated 28 billion plastic water bottles every year, and nearly eight out of every 10 of those bottles will end up in a landfill, translating to about a 23 percent recycling rate.

In the Grand Canyon, discarded plastic bottles account for about 30 percent of the park’s total waste stream, according to the park service, and they are also the single biggest source of trash found inside the canyon.

Coca-Cola Objected; The Ban Was Blocked

Weary of all this plastic litter, 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 Jon Jarvis, the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan.

In yet another example of corporate interests dictating policy, Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and is a major donor to the National Park Foundation, objected to the plan, and it was withdrawn.

From The New York Times:

Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that 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.

(….)

Mr. Martin, a 35-year veteran of the park service who had risen to the No. 2 post in 2003, was disheartened by the outcome. “That was upsetting news because of what I felt were ethical issues surrounding the idea of being influenced unduly by business,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “It was even more of a concern because we had worked with all the people who would be truly affected in their sales and bottom line, and they accepted it.”

Banning Plastic Bottles Is Limiting Personal Choice?

A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Susan Stribling, said the company would rather help address the plastic litter problem by increasing the availability of recycling programs. Stribling argued that such a ban would infringe on people’s rights by limiting their personal choice, and even suggested that banning anything is never the right thing to do.

Really? We should never ban anything? Did I have it all wrong when I marched with the UK’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s Ban The Bomb protests in the 1980s ?

Ban In Zion National Park Eliminated 60,000 Bottles In One Year

In preparing for this ban, the park and its contracted concessionaires installed more water “filling stations” for reusable bottles at a cost of about $300,000, according to information provided by the park service to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. They were following the example of Zion National Park, in Utah, which created a similar ban in 2008 and eliminated 60,000 plastic bottles from the park in the following year.

However, Jon Jarvis, the top federal parks official, said that he had not heard of the ban until late last year,  when he decided to block it.

The 1% Dictates To The 99% – Again

Here’s what he had to say, as first reported in The New York Times: “My decision to hold off the ban was not influenced by Coke, but rather the service-wide implications to our concessions contracts, and frankly the concern for public safety in a desert park.”

Yet again the 1% dictates to the 99%. And this makes no sense: countless studies have shown that bottled water is no better than tap water, and is in fact often less healthy. Training people to buy their own water containers and fill them up, something that thousands of walkers, runners, and hikers take for granted, is obviously far more logical.

But it doesn’t make money for corporations, so it doesn’t get promoted. Shame on you, Mr. Jarvis, for bowing to corporate interests.

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Photo Credit: Moyan_Brenn

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66 comments

Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Metcalf
Sarah M.4 years ago

infuriating!

Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago

This is just plane stupind all potles should be non plastic. and Elena R. if you are going to hike in the desert or winderness you need to be prepaired and cary water with you. sure plastic may be easy but not practical unless there is some way to make sure they are carried back out. if people are forced to buy a decent non plastic bottle then they will carry it back out.

Joe R.
Joe R.4 years ago

The $13 million Coke has donated is chump change and a small price for them to pay for the go-ahead to pollute the Earth. Corporations are very, very bad "people."

Grace Adams
Grace Adams4 years ago

In Connecticut a five cent deposit recently extended to water bottles in additon to soda and beer containers has turned the collection of deposit containers by the geezers into part of the socail safety net. Exempt from deposit containers do sneak in from Rhode Island. Merchants hate it. Those more against the poor than against poverty sabotage the program by removing or defacing lables and especially barcodes. But it does help get things picked up. The Occupy Wall Street crowd seem to be making an effort to pick up litter in general in addition to deposit containers.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams4 years ago

In Connecticut a five cent deposit recently extended to water bottles in additon to soda and beer containers has turned the collection of deposit containers by the geezers into part of the socail safety net. Exempt from deposit containers do sneak in from Rhode Island. Merchants hate it. Those more against the poor than against poverty sabotage the program by removing or defacing lables and especially barcodes. But it does help get things picked up. The Occupy Wall Street crowd seem to be making an effort to pick up littler in general in addition to deposit containers.

Elena Racansky
Elena Racansky4 years ago

First I have to say that I do typically support a number of things posted here, but this one I cannot agree with. Having personal experience hiking the canyon to the river and back I can say that it is not practical to hike without bottled water. The canyon is a very dangerous place and if you have not done this it is difficult to understand where they are coming from in not wanting to ban bottled water. You need to take many litres of water with you on hikes here and the easiest and lightest to carry and use is in plastic bottles.
It is very unfortunate and wrong that people are irresponsible and throw plastic bottles, or for that matter any gargage, into the canyon or in any park. But, responsible hikers should not be punished for bad behaviour of others.

Gina Caracci
Gina Caracci4 years ago

A few things here: First, its SAD that people are so LAZY that they BUY TAP WATER. Most bottled water is just tap water, and its a rip off anyhow. Get a safe, reusable mug and use the water you already pay for instead of making greedy companies richer.
Second, its DISGUSTING to see people just throw plastic bottles out their car windows, along with tons of other garbage. Put a bag in your car for garbage people, and USE IT, or hey how about you leave the garbage in the car until you get home, and then when you are ALREADY going into the house, you bring the garbage in and THROW IT OUT!! HOW ABOUT THAT? Then there are those who throw plastic bottles into their garbage cans, when recycling is available. PICK UP THE PHONE, ORDER A RECYCLE CONTAINER AND USE IT. and I agree that they should restart the program where you get a dime or whatever per item. At least people pick up cans for scrapping the aluminum, but its disgusting how people just DONT CARE anymore. I think they should make it MANDATORY that you recycle. Ive asked some friends why they dont..one said because she already has to pick up after everyone else, its one more thing to do. (????You just throw stuff into a different container.) Another had no reason at all. It should be A LAW!

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado4 years ago

Money is powerful. It can buy!

Gale Thomasson
Gale T.4 years ago

The problem is people are hogs! To dam lazy to find a trash receptical to put the bottles in so they ruin it for everyone else. The plastic is not good for you anyway so bring your own watering cans.