Jean Hill, an 82-year-old activist working on the ban, used the Pacific Gyre to help illustrate the amount of pollution plastic bottles are contributing to. The great garbage patch floating in the ocean was impressively horrifying enough to sway some votes.
Hill also used a study by the Container Recycling Institute, which found 88 percent of plastic water bottles are not recycled, at the rate of 30 million a day, along with the using the fact that bottled water is not redeemable, unlike soda and other drink bottles, which could discourage people from recycling.
Concord residents responded by voting in April 2010 to ban bottled water starting January 2011. Then in July 2010, Martha Coakley, the state’s Attorney General, rejected the proposal. According to The Consumerist, she said the ban “does not constitute a valid bylaw subject to the attorney general’s review and approval.”
Ms. Hill did not stop fighting. After the ban was turned down, she worked with Jill Appel to revise the language of the bylaw so it could stand up to the Attorney General’s scrutiny. In a February 2011 interview with Concord Conserves, she explained:
Bottled water is much more than a recycling issue. Even if we recycled all bottles, bottled water would still cause harm to the environment in the form of fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions. And bottled water would still be a virtually unregulated, costly and unjust product. We need to reduce the amount of trash in the world and part of that is reducing the amount of bottles of water out there, not recycling them.
On April 25, 2012, 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) water bottles of less than 1 liter (34 ounces).”
Embracing the arguments put forward by industry, the Boston Herald’s editorial staff wrote:
“It isn’t every day that a perfectly legal product is subject to a ban. Ah, but no one has reckoned with the do-gooders of Concord who have launched a jihad against bottled water.”
That sort of cheap shot will not keep Jean Hill and her allies from remaining vigilant until the ban becomes official. Future generations will thank her. In spite of the bottled water industry’s arguments, described on Care2 Causes by Judy Molland and reiterated by some of the speakers at the Town Meeting, access to bottled water is not a freedom-of-choice issue.
Freedom to buy bottled water is equivalent to freedom to continue destroying the planet. The Council of Canadians cites five reasons it should be banned:
- Bottled water leads to water shortages
- Bottled water contributes to climate change
- Our landfills cannot support bottled water
- Bottled water is not safer
- Water is a human right
The Jean Hills of the world keep all these points in mind. They also keep something else in mind: the world they are leaving to their children and grandchildren.
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