On January 1st, Concord, Massachusetts enacted a ban on the sale of plastic bottles of water smaller than one liter. This comes after a three-year campaign to reduce waste and encourage tap water usage.
A warning will be issued for first offenders. A second offense will garner the seller a $25 fine, and subsequent offenses will be priced at $50, according to a report by BBC News.
Concord isn’t the first to attempt such a ban, the Australian town of Bundanoon introduced a complete ban on bottled water in 2009. Over 90 universities worldwide have restricted the sale of plastic bottles along with some local government authorities.
Concord didn’t, however, introduce any restrictions on the sale of other small bottled drinks, and there is an exception in the bylaws for the case of emergencies.
“It takes 17 million barrels of oil per year to make all the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. alone. That’s enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year.,” claims the Ban the Bottle campaign, according to the Huffington Post. “In 2007, Americans consumed over 50 billion single serve bottles of water. With a recycling rate of only 23%, over 38 billion bottles end up in landfills.”
The bottled water industry claims that the small bottles are essential to modern lifestyles. They claim bottled water encourages people to live healthier lifestyles.
Jean Hill, leader of the ban campaign in Concord, Told the New York Times, “What I’m trying to do with this bylaw is to increase the barriers to buying single-serve bottled water.”
“In order to help people change, you need to put policies in place that steer them away from buying bottled water and toward considering the many other good alternatives.”
Opponents of the ban argue that it is pointless as they can drive to the next town and buy small bottles.
“Towns are close enough that people can walk two minutes and go get it from Acton or Bedford. It doesn’t really help I don’t think,” local Jenny Fioretti told the Huffington Post. Stores in Acton, such as the Tedeschi convenience store, report a rise in bottled water sales already. Mike Abboud, the manager, estimates his bottled water sales have risen between 10 and 20 percent in the last few weeks.
“We know there’s been an increase in people buying more water,” he said, adding that he had no proof that was why sales increased. “They’re going to get it anyway. You ban it in Concord, they’ll come to Acton.”
This illuminates a second concern of opponents; losing local dollars to neighboring communities. There is already a petition on file for April’s Town Meeting to repeal the bylaw; the community group Concord Residents for Consumer Choice collected 16 signatures from registered voters, just over the required 10, reports the Boston Globe.
“The funny thing is that I rarely buy bottled water; I like to refill my own water,” said Robin Garrison, group cofounder. “It’s just about the right to purchase a legal and healthy product when I want. I feel like it’s a slippery slope: if they’re going to ban this, what else are they going to ban?”
The Chamber of Commerce has heard plenty of anxiety from local market operators, says executive director Stephanie Stillman. The Chamber plans to distribute free bottled water this spring to tourists, which is allowed under the bylaw.
Ms. Hill’s inspiration for this campaign came when her grandson told her about a vast floating island of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean.
“There’s no reason for bottled water,” Hill said. “If someone needs to carry water with them, they can use a reusable bottle. If they really insist on buying it, they can go to another town.”
*For more information go to http://thegreenregister.com