On November 10th, the New York Times exposed the real reason the National Park service scrapped their common sense plan to ban the sale of disposable bottled water in Grand Canyon National Park: pushback from Coca Cola, a major park funder.
According to the article, plastic bottles make up 30% of all waste in the park and are the largest source of trash in the canyon. So why isn't this project moving forward?
Here's the problem: Beyond the pollution plastic bottles cause in the park itself, that plastic trash can be transported out to the ocean by the Colorado River. With as many rivers as there are in the world, even ones like the Colorado that have inconsistent flow, even one bottle is too many whether it reaches the ocean or not. If plastic does get to the ocean, it can contribute to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, causing scores of problems for every creature it encounters along the way- fresh water or salt.
I have seen this problem firsthand. A few years ago I had the opportunity as a journalist to sail with the research organization, The 5 Gyres Institute, to a garbage patch. After seeing what I saw there I was disgusted: plastic trash of every type you can imagine including disposable plastic bottles and bottle caps. Upon my return, I promptly quit my job, began volunteering and devoted my career to trying to solve the marine-eco disaster that is plastic pollution.
Plastic PET bottles pose a clear and present danger to the overall health of the environment and contribute to marine plastic pollution. Coca-Cola sponsors groups that conduct beach cleanup efforts but consistently opposes solutions that would reduce pollution in the first place, like bottle deposits and bottle bans.
We cannot let corporations like Coca Cola shut down common sense measures to reduce plastic pollution. The Grand Canyon Park Service must do its job and protect our public land by immediately banning plastic bottles from the canyon.