Last week residents in Concord, MA voted to ban the sale of plastic water bottles in their municipality as of next January, which could make it the first town in the U.S. to make such a move.
The vote has environmentalists excited, while the $10 billion industry is worried other towns will follow suit. More than 100 towns across the U.S. have prohibited spending city dollars on the product, all in a worldwide effort to reduce plastic in landfills and waterways and reduce greenhouse gases.
The International Bottled Water Association issued a statement threatening a “legal challenge” comparing bottled water to other products, such as cleaning supplies, food and other beverages. Their argument is that they shouldn’t be singled out for producing a wasteful product when everyone else is doing it too.
“Any efforts to discourage consumers from drinking water, whether tap water or bottled water, is not in the best interests of consumers. Bottled water is a very healthy, safe, convenient product that consumers use to stay hydrated,” said Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association.
That’s true, of course, but a ban on bottled water doesn’t necessarily mean people will drink less of it, it just means they will have to be more conscientious about their drinking habits.
The convenience of throw-away products, like bottled water, are causing many environmental problems.
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.
In the U.S. alone, 60 million plastic bottles a day are manufactured, producing massive greenhouse gases, then transported and thrown away, leaching synthetic chemicals into the earth. According to the Food and Water Watch, when all is said and done producing and distributing bottled water uses up to 2,000 times the amount of energy used to produce tap water.
Millions of gallons of fuel are used transporting filtered tap water across the U.S. and around the world. Three times as much water is used to make a bottle than is used to fill it.
In March 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council report, “Bottled Water, Pure Drink or Pure Hype?” revealed that as much as 40 percent of all bottled water comes from a city water system, just like tap water. Federal regulations also don’t require bottled water to be any better than tap water, and FDA standards don’t apply to water that’s bottled and sold in the same state.
While it’s unclear whether the town will be able to legally uphold the ban, it’s clear that home filtering systems and reusable containers are far healthier for us and our environment.
It’s also unclear whether Boston’s “aquapocalypse” that left some 2 million people in the area without drinkable water when a water main broke shortly after the vote will have anyone changing their minds about the ban.
However, Hill still has no doubts about the decision and points out that people can easily keep stored water jugs for such an emergency.