By Laura Bly, USA TODAY
Dec. 16, 2011
Barely a month after public outcry over news that a proposed ban on sales of disposable plastic water bottles in Grand Canyon National Park had been abruptly shelved following concerns by parks donor Coca-Cola, the ban is moving forward and could take effect in early 2012.
The new directive, which is part of a larger Green Parks Plan expected next year, follows speculation that a Grand Canyon ban scheduled to start Jan. 1, 2011, was put on hold after Coca-Cola officials raised concerns through the National Park Foundation. Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand, has donated more than $13 million to the parks.
Grand Canyon had been following the example of Utah’s Zion National Park, which launched a similar program in 2008, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which offers water stations and encourages visitors to bring their own bottles or buy a stainless steel reusable bottle at the Kilauea Visitors Center.
Discarded plastic bottles account for about 30% of the Grand Canyon’s total waste stream, according to an earlier park service estimate, and a park official said bottles are the single biggest source of trash found inside the canyon.
Park service spokesman David Barna said recycling or eliminating plastic bottles is just one element of the service’s broad environmental plan. But nearly 100,000 people have joined a Change.org campaign asking the service to go ahead with the bottle ban, and the organization took issue with latest directive.
“While it is commendable that the National Park Service has decided not to completely kow to Coca-Cola on a plastic bottle ban, the new policy is still troubling,” said petition organizer StivWilson in a prepared statement. ” If the barriers to implementation of bottle bans are too cost-prohibitive or onerous for the superintendents to act, then we’ve only witnessed a bait and switch.”
Grand Canyon spokeswoman Shannan Marcak said that after a “thorough review” and following the steps required by the new directive, a ban could be implemented by spring of 2012.
She noted that the park has already installed seven free water supply stations on the South Rim and three on the North Rim, and that three park concessionaires — Delaware North, ForeveverResorts and Xanterra — have either provided new filling stations or refitted existing water fountains at most of their facilities.