First U.S. Town to Ban Bottled Water
One of the towns whose residents fired the first shots in the American Revolution has now become the first to shoot down single-serve plastic water bottles as a menace to the environment. Concord, Massachusetts, which is governed by its Town Meeting, voted 403-364 in April to pass a bylaw banning the sale of the bottles, which is set to go into effect January 1, 2013. It was given a final seal of legality by state Attorney General Martha Coakley last week.
Coakley, who is widely expected to run for governor of Massachusetts in 2014, emphasized that her decision is “based solely on … consistency with state and federal law, not on any policy views she may have on the subject matter or wisdom of the bylaw.” She based her ruling largely on the U.S. Supreme Court case of Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery (1981), which held a Minnesota law banning the retail sale of milk in plastic containers constitutional.
The bylaw, written and petitioned by 84-year-old grandmother Jean Hill, focuses solely on water sold in one-liter bottles or less, imposes a warning for first offenders, a $25 fine for two-time scofflaws and a $50 fine for each subsequent offense. It also allows the sale of the bottles during emergencies. Hill told the Boston Herald in April that the purpose of the bylaw is to protect the environment. “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am,’’ said Hill. “It took three years to do this and now that it’s happened, I’m so relieved.” A similar bylaw was defeated in Concord last year by 7 votes and struck down by Coakley two years ago because of how it was written.
According to National Geographic, Americans drink 29 billion bottles of water every year, the environmental impact of which is staggering. Every year, making the plastic for those bottles uses 17 million barrels of crude oil (enough to keep 1 million vehicles on the road), while pumping, processing, transporting and refrigerating bottled water uses more than 50 million barrels of oil. Because few people recycle the bottles, 2 million tons of them end up in U.S. landfills every year.
Despite Coakley’s decision, the fight may not be over yet, as a national trade association said it is considering legal action. “We’re disappointed in the attorney general’s decision and we will be looking at other legal options,’’ said Chris Hogan, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, which has spent nearly $1 million on lobbying since 1998.
Concord resident Adriana Cohen said she is disappointed by the decision and is considering trying to get it rescinded at an upcoming Town Meeting. “I believe it’s an encroachment on our freedom,’’ Cohen said. “Bottled water is a safe, legal FDA-approved product, and I should have the right to buy it.’’
To Learn More:
AG Coakley OKs Concord Plastic Water Bottle Ban (by Ira Kantor, Boston Herald)
Concord Bottled Water Ban OK’d (by Jennifer Fenn Lefferts, Boston Globe)
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