Concord, Massachusetts has become one of the first communities in the U.S. to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles.
According to the Associated Press, the plastic bottle ban resulted from a three-year campaign by local activists. The activists pushed to reduce waste and fossil fuel use.
Octogenarian Jean Hill lead the charge, telling The New York Times in a 2010 interview, "The bottled water companies are draining our aquifers and selling it back to us." She declared, “I’m going to work until I drop on this."
The campaign Ban the Bottle claims that "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." Their website also states: "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."
According to the EPA, in 2010, the U.S. generated 31 million tons of plastic waste.
The Town of Concord's website describes the bylaw, stating "It shall be unlawful to sell non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less in the Town of Concord on or after January 1, 2013." There is an exemption for an "emergency adversely affecting the availability and/or quality of drinking water to Concord residents."
The first offense results in a warning, the second in a $25 fine, and the third (and each following offense) in a $50 fine. Concord's Health Division staff are in charge of enforcing the ban.
Not everyone is happy with the ban. WHDH reports that some businesses are also working around it by selling larger bottles, since the rule only focuses on smaller ones. Local Jenny Fioretti voiced one concern to the news group: “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."
In a previous interview with Concord Conserves, Hill acknowledged the challenges, but added, "what I'm trying to do with this Bylaw is to increase the barriers to buying single-serve bottled water because 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... I hope that other towns will consider taking action too."
Clarification: Language has been amended in this article to correct an inconsistency with regard to how businesses are responding to the ban.