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Did Coca-Cola trash a Grand Canyon litter plan?

November 10, 2011 | 11:37 am

Coca-Cola and Dasani
Grand Canyon National Park was just about to impose a ban on single-use plastic water bottles -- the most common form of trash found along its trails -- when the plan was suddenly put on hold, the New York Times reported. The paper raises the possibility that Coca-Cola Co. was able to get a sympathetic ear at the National Parks Foundation because the company, which bottles Dasani water, is a major donor.

This isn't a radical new idea. Zion National Park already has a ban. The park provides "hydration stations" for people to refill their reusable bottles, as the Grand Canyon park would have.

The story included a strange comment from a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, who said that bans on single-use plastic bottles are never the answer, and that recycling would resolve the problem. What does Coca-Cola propose to do, place recycling stations every 50 feet in the wilderness? Those bottles aren't being tossed because people refuse to recycle. They're littering the trails because too many people find it too hard to pack out an empty bottle that weighs in at a few grams.

According to Coca-Cola, the ban would impinge on visitors' personal choices. Yup, I guess it would. But so do all rules. We don't allow hikers to trample fragile ecosystems where they might harm endangered species. We don't allow them to pick up and keep archaeological finds. Once people make the personal choice to enter the lands and waters of a national treasure, it's well within reason to require them to behave in ways that protect that treasure.

Coca-Cola is, of course, entitled to say its piece about the new rules, even if it is a major donor. The possibility that the head of national parks actually listened to the company, though, speaks volumes about what can happen when we rely on private corporations to support public resources.

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Photo credit: Nicolas Asfouri / AFP/Getty Images

 

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