Concord, Mass. could lead the country in banning bottled water

Americans toss over 71 percent of the plastic water bottles we use

According to a 2010 report by the National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, California, the total plastic bottle recycling rate was 28.8 percent, up from 27.8 percent in 2009. That means Americans are tossing over 71 percent of the plastic bottles we use.

One town in Massachusetts wants to take on the issue by banning bottled water altogether.

In April 2010, the citizens of Concord, Mass. voted to ban the sale of single-serving bottled water, beginning in January 2011. However, the state Attorney General, Martha Coakley, rejected this, saying the ban “does not constitute a valid bylaw subject to the attorney general’s review and approval.”

This initiative was definitely more complicated than you think.

But never say never to a New Englander!

Eighty-two year old activist Jean Hill went back to the drawing board, revising the bylaw’s language  so it could stand up to the Attorney General’s scrutiny.

Fast forward to April 25, 2012, when the issue was debated at a Concord Town Meeting and passed by 39 votes. According to the Concord Patch, the issue now goes back to the Attorney General. If she approves the revised bylaw, Concord will become the first community in the U.S. “to ban the sale of single-serving PET (polyethylene terephthalate) (#1) water bottles of less than 1 liter (34 ounces).”

If signed by the state attorney general, Concord, Mass. would be the 1st town in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic bottles

If signed, this bylaw would take effect in 2013.

Responding to dire predictions of huge loss of recycling revenue and potential harm to local businesses if the bylaw was to be signed into law, guest speaker Huw Kingston – who came all the way from the small town of Bundanoon, Australia, the first Australian town to ban single-serving PET water bottles – explained how proud Bundanoon was to go through with the ban. Kingston also raised the point that his town’s small businesses made more in refillable water bottles in a day than they had all year in selling single-serving PET water bottles.

Although the Board of Selectmen took no action on the issue, Selectman Jeffery Weiand stressed that if the new bylaw is approved by the state, it would be legally binding, which incurs fines for those who continue to distribute it;  a warning for first offense, $25 for a second, and $50 for a third.

We shall see whether Attorney General Coakley bows to the will of her constituents and signs the proposed bylaw. It definitely would be a big step forward and would sound a warning call to large bottlers across the country.

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