WASHINGTON — Officials at the Grand Canyon abruptly abandoned plans to ban the sale of plastic water bottles at the Arizona national park after conversations with Coca-Cola officials, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Stephen P. Martin, who crafted the plan, told the newspaper that the effort was scrapped after Coca-Cola officials raised concerns about the plan through the National Park Foundation. He was told the effort was being tabled about two weeks before its scheduled Jan. 1 start.
Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand, has donated more than $13 million to the parks.
David Barna, a National Park Service spokesman, said National Parks Service Director Jon Jarvis made the “decision to put it on hold until we can get more information.
“Reducing and eliminating disposable plastic bottles is one element of our green plan,” Barna said. “This is a process, and we are at the beginning of it.”
Neil J. Mulholland, president of the parks foundation, said a Coca-Cola representative contacted him late in the process to ask for details of the bottle ban and how it would work.
“There was not an overt statement made to me that they objected to the ban,” Mulholland said. “There was never anything inferred by Coke that if this ban happens, we’re losing their support.”
Susan Stribling, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, said the company would prefer to help address problems with littered plastic bottles by making more recycling programs available.
“Banning anything is never the right answer,” she said. “If you do that, you don’t necessarily address the problem.” She also characterized the bottle ban as limiting personal choice. “You’re not allowing people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume,” she said.
Martin, a 35-year veteran of the park service who rose to the No. 2 post in 2003, said he was disheartened by the decision to halt the ban.
“That was upsetting news because of what I felt were ethical issues surrounding the idea of being influenced unduly by business,” Martin said. “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.”