Discarded plastic bottles account for around 30% of trash at the Grand Canyon, so in an effort to reduce the amount of waste left behind by the oodles of visitors, the park was all set to launch a ban on the sale of bottled water. But then, after the folks at Coca-Cola voiced their concerns, a top national park official decided to pull the plug on the program.
See, not only does Coca-Cola sell its Dasani bottled water at the park, it has also donated millions. So after the call from Coke, a rep for the National Park Service says a decision was made “to put it on hold until we can get more information.”
One person who has spoken out about Coke’s interference in the matter is the now-former top parks official at the Canyon, who retired last December. “That was upsetting news because of what I felt were ethical issues surrounding the idea of being influenced unduly by business,” he tells the NY Times. “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.”
The president of the National Parks Foundation says that while Coca-Cola did express its concerns, “There was not an overt statement made to me that they objected to the ban… There was never anything inferred by Coke that if this ban happens, we’re losing their support.”
The official who made the actual call to halt the ban says, “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.”
But documents uncovered by the NY Times show that the official “reiterated his decision to have the Grand Canyon hold off on implementation” until “we have hosted a meeting with the major producers of bottled water.”
A rep for Coca-Cola tells the Times the company would rather help by making recycling more readily available.
“Banning anything is never the right answer,” explains the rep. “If you do that, you don’t necessarily address the problem.”
And while the rep said the ban would not allow “people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume,” the Times reports that the ban was only on the in-park sale of smaller bottles of water. No other beverages would have been impacted.