Monday, May 3, 2010

Concord, MA to be First US City to Ban Bottled Water

Photo courtesy: TreeHugger

I have previously written about Bundanoon, Australia, the first place in the world to ban bottled water. The vote took place in July, 2009 with the city getting full implementation by October, 2009.

Now, just last week, Concord, Massachusetts voted to ban the sale of all bottled water by January 2011. This makes it the first USA town to take such action and the second known town worldwide to ban all bottled water.

The effort was lead by Jean Hill who lobbied neighbors and officials alike on the consequences of plastic bottles filling landfills and polluting local waters. This 82-year-old activist used the Pacific Gyre aka The Great Garbage Patch to help demonstrate the damage floating plastic is causing to the marine ecosystems and their inhabitants.

She pointed out that there is an estimated 100 million tons of flotsam floating aimlessly in the Plastic Vortex. This nightmare of floating plastic and other debris has been named "the eighth continent" by environmentalists.

Armed with a study by the Container Recycling Institute which found that 88% of plastic water bottles are not recycled to the tune of 30 million bottles a day, Hill pointed to the alarming amount of waste and environmental damage caused. In the US alone, 60 million plastic bottles a day are manufactured at the environmental cost of producing massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Then, as if that environmental damage is not sufficient, it is transported (more pollution) somewhere else to end up thrown away leaching synthetic chemicals into the earth.

She also pointed out that bottled water containers are not redeemable although they are recyclable; and, unlike soda or other drink bottles she feels the lack of deposit refund may discourage people from recycling them.

Hill states: "All these discarded bottles are damaging our planet causing clumps of garbage in the oceans that hurt fish; and, are creating more pollution on our streets. This is a great achievement to be the first in the country to do this. This is about addressing an injustice."

Of course, the $10 billion bottled water industry is not happy with the ban and has threatened a legal challenge. Their arguement is that singling out bottled water is unfair when "thousands of food, medicinal, beauty and cleaning products are packaged in plastic." But this isn't the first time bottled water has been targeted.

More than 100 towns across the United States already prohibit spending city dollars on bottled water.

Photo courtesy: TreeHugger Click on picture and use zoom feature for enlargements.

"We obviously don't think highly of the vote in Concord," said Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association. "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."

But is bottled water safe as claimed?

As the NRDC reports, water stored in plastic bottles for just 10 short weeks showed signs of phthalate-leaching. Studies indicate that phthalates block testosterone and other hormones. Keep in mind, no regulations exist governing the levels of phthalates in bottled water; and, it costs 10,000 times more than tap water. The irony here being that 40% of the water used comes straight from the tap.

The Concord ordinance is part of a statewide effort to implement new laws regarding redemption and deposit refund for a larger variety of bottles. Massachusetts' 29-year-old law only allows monetary redemption on bottles and cans from soda and beer. Bottles from non-carbonated water, iced tea, juices or energy drinks are not redeemable; although, they account for one-third of all beverages sold in the state.

Now, they are hoping to raise the redemption rate to 10 cents per container on a greater number of bottles. Go Concord! Go Jean Hill!!

Hopefully, more towns will take heed and ban plastic bottles.

Via TreeHugger and Care2

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