Effectiveness & Environment
The ban does not reduce plastic waste or help the environment.
- The ban is not keeping bottled water or PET plastic out of Concord. Businesses have merely replaced water with drinks such as soda, sports drinks, iced teas, juices and other sugary drinks in single-serve plastic (PET and non-PET) bottles, or in plastic bottles (PET and non-PET) larger than 1 liter. In addition to many other drinks being less healthy than water, the bottles they are sold in actually have a higher plastic content – to hold carbonation and for durability – and are heavier, resulting in higher production material, energy costs and transportation costs.
- While proponents of the ban have demonized plastic, they have ignored the environmental impact of other containers, leading people to make a false choice and switch to less environmentally friendly packaging. For example, glass bottles takes more energy to produce and transport than plastic, can break and injure workers, and are abrasive and wreak havoc on recycling equipment.
The ban jeopardizes personal liberty by taking away our freedom of choice.
- The ban erodes the freedom of choice that is a cornerstone of our democracy. Worse, it compels us to make potentially unhealthy choices contrary to our beliefs and best interests. We should have the right to decide what is best for our families and ourselves. We agree with the goal of reducing waste and helping the environment, but this should be encouraged through appropriate incentives, not by trying to force a behavior through an ill-thought out ban that infringes on consumer choice.
- Bottled water today, what’s tomorrow? Is Concord going to ban other products that come in disposable (yet recyclable) plastic containers such as laundry detergent, milk, yogurt, orange juice, and ketchup? A parent who wants to send their child to school with a small bottle of water in his lunchbox rather than a high-sugar juice box should be able to buy that bottle of water here in Concord. Why should a few people who don’t want to drink bottled water stop the rest of us from being able to buy a healthy, legal product? It is presumptive to think people cannot make such a basic decision about their diet and habits. Let each Concord consumer decide for him/herself what drink to buy.
Health & Safety
The ban compromises our community’s health and safety and, worse, promotes unhealthy drink alternatives.
- The ban removes a safe, healthy product from store shelves and vending machines and pushes people to buy calorie-laden and plastic-intensive alternatives. People should be drinking more water, regardless of the container it comes in. The practical reality is that when bottled water is not an option, a parent, student, tourist or athlete is more likely to simply buy a soda, juice or sports drink in its place than buying a reusable container and searching for a public water source.
- Concord has a municipal water supply that is safe; however, some dispensers of the water may not be as clean. Public water fountains, including those in our schools, have high concentrations of germs and bacteria on them and can play a role in the spread of colds and the flu. The National Sanitation Foundation found that a public water fountain contains 2.7 million bacteria cells in one cubic inch (even more than a public toilet, which is sanitized more often). Our children would reduce their risk of catching and spreading illness if they instead drank individual bottles of water.
- Using a reusable water container isn’t always an available option. Outdoor public water fountains are turned off during the winter months, eliminating even the ability to access water from them. Sometimes people forget to bring their reusable container with them. They shouldn’t be expected to buy a new one for $15 every time that happens.
- The ban goes beyond a simple matter of convenience and has a real, negative impact on residents and visitors to Concord with medical issues that require bottled water such as compromised immune systems, allergies, cancer, and other significant health conditions. Take the example of Concord resident Ann Davidson, 82, who has hemochromatosis, a disease that causes her body to absorb too much iron. She is required to drink bottled water because she cannot eat or drink anything that contains large quantities of iron, like tap water. She also suffers from Parkinson’s disease, which makes it difficult for her to carry the larger bottles of water allowed under the ban. Those undergoing kidney dialysis also require drinking water that is filtered beyond municipal requirements and rely heavily on bottled water. This ban could harm our weakest citizens.
- The ban’s emergency carve-out is unclear and confusing. The bylaw’s exemption states that legal sales of banned bottled water will only be allowed after the “declaration of an emergency adversely affecting the availability and/or quality of drinking water to Concord residents” for seven days after the declaration. The issues unaddressed are threefold: the number of people adversely affected that would prompt the Town to act; who specifically in the Town of Concord has the authority to sanction sales; and the lack of advanced warning to retailers to have time to order and receive the water before the emergency strikes. With the approach of winter storm Nemo in February 2013, Governor Patrick issued a State of Emergency for the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and that still was not enough for the Town to exempt Concord retailers from the ban. The emergency carve-out does nothing to alleviate concerns about Town preparedness.
- The ban compromises Concord residents’ immediate access to safe drinking water during times of peak demand and reduces the ability to respond during an emergency. Volume counts in times of emergency preparedness. What if those supplies run out? You can’t prepare for an emergency after the fact. Shelters, hospitals and emergency relief organizations prefer single-serving size because it is easier to ration and distribute, and first responders and citizens find it easier to carry and drink than large bottles.
The ban hurts local businesses and counters the idea of “buying local.”
- The ban directly contradicts the “Buy Local” mantra that helps our community’s merchants thrive. Local stores and restaurants, many of which have made concerted efforts during the past several years to encourage Concord residents to “Buy Local,” have experienced a loss of income by not being able to meet consumer demand for bottled water. Retailers rely on bottled water sales to support their businesses; some get enough revenue from bottled water sales that they are willing to pay the fines for selling single-serving bottled water in PET plastic.
- The ban on bottled water hurts the vibrancy of our Town’s small business community and drives people out of town. Since the ban went into effect on January 1, many Concord residents now drive to neighboring towns such as Bedford, Acton, Waltham and beyond to buy single-serving bottled water. Common sense dictates that when they leave to spend their money on water, they will also buy other goods outside of our town rather than supporting our local businesses. Forcing residents to drive further to buy bottled water also requires Concord residents to use more gas and promotes less sustainable practices. Shopping in Concord helps local businesses, who give more back to the community and generally help more jobs and dollars stay in Concord.
- The ban does not ask consumers to participate in this initiative. Consumers are still able to buy bottled water elsewhere, while businesses are forced to lose revenue, customers, and face increased regulatory inspection and fines.
The Concord Way
The right way to protect the environment and conserve plastic is to encourage recycling and drinking tap water when available, while preserving the freedom of choice. It’s the Concord way.
- The ban diverts community effort from initiatives that make a real difference, and instead consumes resources on an ineffective initiative.
- Bottled water is a product that the world needs. While we in Concord are lucky to have access to clean water today, many other places in the world are not. Where there is poverty or disaster, it is wonderful that people have access to clean drinking water. Efforts should always be put towards improving infrastructure for public water sources. However, it is naïve to think that this improvement will happen by eliminating bottled water from the world, or to think that the access to clean water in bottles hasn’t been an advancement for human health. If the ultimate end goal of this “symbolic” initiative is to help eliminate bottled water completely, that is a terrible goal that will lead to real harm.
- As a society, we should always pursue being better stewards of the environment, but a ban goes too far. Proponents of the ban have stated the “need to make a statement to the world” about plastic waste. But this is a bad place to start. Why ban the sale of the healthiest beverage one can consume? Efforts would be better spent focusing on making it easier to collect and recycle plastic bottles/waste rather than targeting one product outright.
- Time and money is being wasted by the town on enforcing this ban. Staff members at the town’s Department of Health are spending their time inspecting, re-inspecting and issuing fines when their time would be better spent focusing on issues that actually impact the community’s health and safety.
Money and effort could be put towards increasing business recycling in town. Other positive efforts could include starting a composting program and helping businesses focus on more energy efficient business practices.