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Concord, Mass. to Hold Third Vote on Plastic Bottle Ban

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First Town To Ban Plastic Water Bottles? | Plastic Bag Ban Report
CONCORD, Massachusetts, April 2, 2012 (ENS) – Again this April, for the third year running, the picturesque, historic town of Concord, Massachusetts has a chance to become the first town in the United States to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles.

Photo: Trash retrieved from Assabet River which runs through Concord. Credit: US EPA

On April 23, the annual Town Meeting will vote on a long list of warrant articles, among them the Drinking Water in Single-Serving PET Bottles Bylaw, placed on the list by petition.

If approved by the town and by the state attorney general, no one would be able to purchase non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles one liter or less in size in Concord.

Under the proposed bylaw, if an emergency is declared in Concord, bottled water could be sold up to seven days after the emergency is officially ended.

Third Vote
In 2010, the bans was approved at the Concord Town Meeting but killed by the state attorney general because it was not written correctly as a bylaw.

In 2011, the ban was rejected at the Town Meeting by a vote of 265 in favor to 272 against – a difference of just seven votes.

A second, non-binding proposal to “educate” Concord voters on the environmental issues around bottled water did pass in 2011.

This year, grandmotherly environmental activist Jean Hill is trying for the third time to get the measure passed. “I’m 84 years old, I have four kids, six grandchildren, and I’m doing it because I don’t want the planet trashed for all the generations to come,” Hill told local media.

Hill says plastic water bottles take hundreds of years to disintegrate and can harm wildlife. She says people can always easily access tap water and take it with them in a reuseable water bottle.

“I think people are beginning to realize there is more to life than convenience,” said Hill. “We have to respect the planet.”

Businesses and IBWA Oppose Ban
Some opponents of the ban are Concord business people who say they will lose customers if such a ban is implemented.

Jim Crosby, owner of Crosby’s Market on Sudbury Road, went before the Concord Board of Selectmen last Monday to argue against the ban.

“The warrant attacks the supply side of my business and people will leave town for cases of water,” Crosby warned. “I see it as a severe threat for delis, sub shops and convenience stores.”

“I don’t think we need this,” Crosby said. “We recycle here in Concord and are a very responsible town.” However, Concord’s recycling rate was four points less in 2008 (latest numbers available) than in 1997.(1)

Crosby said banning bottled drinking water could cause runners, hikers and cyclists who need to hydrate to purchase sugar-based drinks instead.

The bottled water industry, represented by the Virginia-based International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), also opposes the ban.

After the ban was defeated in 2011, the IBWA said in a statement, “With this vote, Concord residents have sent a clear message that they care about the availability of bottled water as a matter of consumer choice, health, and safety.”

IBWA supports the view held by many in Concord that more should be done to enhance recycling in the town’s public spaces, especially during summer when bottled water sales are high and nonresident tourists abound.

Chairman of the Concord Board of Selectmen Jeff Wieand has warned that even if the bylaw passes and is approved by the state attorney general, the town could be the target of a costly lawsuit brought by the bottled water industry.

References:
(1) Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection
Cover Photo: Concord Main Street by Will B. Payne

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.