Town Meeting Preview: The Water Bottle Bylaw
Article 38 will examine whether or not a bylaw should be established to prevent the sale of single serving water bottles.
When Article 38 is heard at Town Meeting next week, proponents are hoping it sets a precedent in the war against bottled beverages. Opponents, though, are seeing the article as a costly item that will take money away from Concord business owners.
For supporters of the article, banning single serving plastic water bottles would prevent wasteful plastic from being produced. Residents, they believe, would instead turn to the municipal water supply in town and fill their own reusable bottles.
Speaking on behalf of Jean Hill (the lead supporter of the article), Jill Appel wrote that while bottled water is expedient to many, a quick fix is not worth some of the long-term repercussions.
“(Hill) believes that bottled water is inconsistent with our values and that as a community, we care about the impact of our choices, and we are willing to choose actions that help our world without being driven by what’s convenient,” said Appel.
Those whose livelihood depends on providing convenience and/or basic necessities to residents are up in arms over the article. Business owners like Elizabeth Akehurst-Moore, owner of Concord Convenience, depend on the sales of bottled water, particularly in a tough economy.
“Bottled water is the number one selling beverage in the store, which says a lot considering how many types of beverages we sell,” she said.
Akehurst-Moore added that customers look for the bottles for a variety of reasons, including Little League coaches who want to distribute water to players and a group of walkers who recently wanted to take the bottles on their trek during a multiple sclerosis fundraiser.
“A ton of active people come in and grab a bottle of water,” she said. “I think it could take away from that active lifestyle.”
One argument against Article 38 suggests that should bottled water not be an option for residents, particularly kids, consumers might instead reach for a sugary drink. But according to Janet Lawson, the reason that water is being singled out is twofold. The first, she said, is that an “environmentally friendly alternative” to bottled water can already be found in the taps of homeowners. The other, she said, relates to “undermining support for water as a commons” and not pumping that money into local water resources.
“We should be proud of our public water systems, among the best in the world, and keep it that way by supporting our public water infrastructure,” she wrote.
For others, though, establishing a bylaw against single serving water bottles takes away consumer choice and mandates a certain type of behavior.
“Why is Concord, a town whose foundation is based on valuing individual freedoms, suddenly willing to limit personal choice when it comes to a basic human need such as water?” asked Jane Manilych.
For a business owner like Akehurst-Moore, taking away consumer choice in Concord means that current customers will spend their money in other communities.
“I know (article proponents) have said that they’ve gone around and talked to business owners, but no one has talked to me yet,” said Akehurst-Moore. “It’s worrisome from a commerce point of view that people could just go to the store next town over.”
Whatever the Town of Concord chooses next week, it is a likely conclusion that this is an issue that will not rest any time soon.
“I have no problem with providing education on these issues,” said Akehurst-Moore, “but I do have a problem with banning items like these.”
Articles 38, as well as Article 39, which is a resolution to discourage the sale or use of single serving bottled drinking water, are expected to be heard on Tuesday evening after 8 p.m.