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January 03, 2013

PET Peeve: Ban on Water Bottles Begins in Massachusetts



In the coming green revolution, the Town of Concord, Mass., has fired the first shot heard ‘round the world. It has become the number one municipality in America—and possibly on the planet—to make the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles illegal within its boundaries.

Under a new bylaw, Article 32, effective January 1, stores will be fined for violating the ban on “non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of one liter (34 ounces) or less.” The law was approved last April at a town meeting.

Town Manager Christopher Whelan will enforce the law. Stores found in violation of the bottled water ban will receive a warning on the first offense, followed by a $25 fine for a second violation and $50 for each subsequent offense.

The only exemption from the law would be “sales occurring subsequent to a declaration of an emergency adversely affecting the availability and/or quality of drinking water to Concord residents by the Emergency Management Director or other duly-authorized Town, Commonwealth or United States official … until seven days after such declaration has ended.”

According to the local newspaper “The Concord Post, bottlers and manufacturers already are fighting back. Recently, a visitor, who told Concordians he was with Bottled Water Matters, circulated a petition for a re-vote at a general election—asserting that it was unfair that only those who attended the traditional, New England-style town meeting got to have their say.

Local businesses also have opposed the ban on the grounds that it restricts of freedom of choice and will simply drive bottled water sales out of town.According to the Oakland, Calif.-based sustainability group, The Pacific Institute, making one ton of PET produces around three tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). In fact, bottling water created more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 in 2006. 

The $22 billion retail packaged-water industry in the United States has reason to be nervous. More than 90 schools, among them Brown University, Loyola University, and Harvard University, are banning the sale, or restricting the use of, plastic water bottles. The University of Vermont added its own name to the list starting this week.

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Several beverage companies including Evian, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, are meeting the threat head-on. Indeed, a letter to the editor of  The Boston Globe, dated January 3, from David Larose, division manager, Coca-Cola Bottling of Northern New England, based in Burlington, VT said, “Coca-Cola has committed to investing in packaging designs that use less material, incorporate more renewable resources, and are 100 percent recyclable. PlantBottle packaging for Dasani is made with up to 30 percent plant-based materials and represents a key step toward recognizing this goal.”




Edited by Jamie Epstein

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