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water under the Dasani brand and is a major donor to the National Park Foundation, objected to the plan, and it was withdrawn.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.
Photo Credit: Moyan_Brenn