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Grand Canyon bottle ban raises questions over corporate donors to Parks Service

Plastic bottles in the back of a pickup truck, ready for recycling
Streetwise Cycle
Plastic bottles in the back of a pickup truck, ready for recycling

While environmentalists are praising a decision by the National Park Service to abolish bottled water sales in the Grand Canyon within 30 days,  concerns about corporate influence at public parks  linger.

The plan to ban plastic water bottle sales in the Grand Canyon goes back to 2010.

But just before the new policy was to take effect, the Park Service halted it.

Critics complained that the parks chief caved in to Coca Cola, which bottles Dasani Water and has donated $13 million to the parks.

But public pressure this fall forced the Park Service director to once again reverse his decision.  

This week, the Grand Canyon announced a ban on bottled water sales will take effect in March. 

Jeff Ruch is director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

He says this case highlights the need for transparency between public parks and their private donors. Especially now, says Ruch, because the parks service recently announced a one billion corporate fundraising campaign.  

“That means they will have to have about 400 donors the size of Coca Cola," Ruch says. "If Coca Cola can wreak this much havoc, multiply that by 400 times, and you’re going to have a different park system than you have now.”

A Coca Cola spokeswoman says the company wanted to be consulted about the ban so that it could help the park’s sustainability plans.

She says while the company objects to the ban, it will continue to support recycling programs at the park and innovations in disposable bottles.

For Arizona Public Radio, I’m Shelley Smithson.