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Bottle Ban Proponent Softens Language, Approach

Article framers give selectmen latitude, limit to liter-size plastic.

Jean Hill is trying for a second year to get the town to ban the sale of small-size plastic drinking water bottles. Hill's article passed Town Meeting last year, but Attorney General Martha Coakley's office ruled that the article did not constitute a legal bylaw.

But Hill is returning with a new article that gives the selectmen more power of enforcement, among other changes, according to Jill Appel, a Hill spokesperson.

Appel is a former member of the Finance Committee and sits on the municipal light plant board. She said Tuesday that she is helping to educate the town and local businesses that opposed the ban, saying it would negatively affect their businesses.

"I worked with an attorney to follow the proper format in town," said Appel. "I don't know if it's legal or not. That's for the attorney general to decide once the bill is passed."

Appel, Hill's self-described "right arm," said the presentation at the public hearing on the article went "very well" this week.

"Jean gave a robust presentation," said Appel. "She was scripted and had 18 slides, and got good feedback."

Appel acknowledged the "differences of opinion" regarding the article. Another warrant article asks voters to merely "discourage" the use and sale of plastic water bottles. Appel said she thinks both should pass. "On its own, it doesn't work," she said.

Tom First, head of Nantucket Nectars and O Water, spoke against the ban, saying there is chlorine in the drinking water from the tap, and that the town could recycle more.

A representative from Crosby's Marketplace said their store is stocking bio-degradable bottles and reusable bottles.

"These are all good things," said Appel. "But not everybody wins in this debate."

Appel said the article is a "soft ban," meaning, she said, "effective but not so restrictive" for individuals and businesses. Only the smaller liter-size bottles would be affected, and only plain water, not flavored or supplemented water drinks.

"We are trying to simplify it," said Appel. She said there would be "spot checks" twice a year to see of stores were complying, and the selectmen would "monitor" the effects of the ban and if costs became "prohibitive," in other words, if a market sued the town, "the selectmen would hold a hearing and decide what they wanted to do with the bylaw."

Jane Manilych March 09, 2011 at 02:13 PM
This notion that the public will gravitate to the public water fountains in town if they need water is absurd--when is the last time you drank from a public water fountain? Usually they are not working or are filled with litter, especially those outside. How much money would the town and private businesses have to spend on adding new water fountains or maintaining those we have? A thirsty tourist who doesn't know about the ban and needs water immediately, will have to walk or drive how far to the nearest fountain? Exactly where are they--Emerson Field perhaps? Would you drink from a fountain filled with used chewing gum? What if he or she is handicapped? 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? And it is so ironic and frankly absurd that we would ban water but not all flavored drinks packaged in plastic, which so many people feel are not only bad for the environment but unhealthy also. How can a measure that only goes half way be made into a just law? We know the supporters of this bill are well meaning and passionate about their cause. Let us realize that IT IS misguided in requiring all citizens to give up this basic right of choice when there are voluntary alternatives. Why is this group so afraid of a voluntary ban? Let Concordians exercise their individual right to decide what is best for themselves and their families..
Betsy Levinson March 09, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Thanks, Jane, for your well reasoned response.
Jill Appel March 09, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Thanks for your comment, Jane. I think what Jean is asking Concordians to do is to make a choice as a community about a product that many view as having many problems. She 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. As for voluntary measures and education, the research shows that they may make everyone feel good, but by themself they are not effective in bringing about meaningful change. Yet they are good as a complement to an effective bylaw. I would encourage you to take a look at the resources that Jean has provided to the community about the bottled water issue. There is an article in the Concord Conserves newsletter this month at www.concordconserves.org that includes links to some key documents - Key Facts and FAQs. You can view her March 7th presentation to the Board of Selectmen on CCTV. And we hope to see you at our March 23rd event at the Harvey Wheeler Center (more to come on that). Here is a nice article about a place that recognized the seriousness of the issue and did something effective about it, setting an example for the millions of tourists that visit there every year. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8016115/Italy-bans-the-plastic-water-bottle-along-heritage-coastline.html Thank you.
Janet Lawson March 10, 2011 at 04:09 PM
I’d like to weigh in as the petitioner for Article 39, the other water bottle article. Yes, this is a source of confusion. Why water? Why not soda? Why not all plastic? There are two answers. First, single serving bottled water is unnecessary because we already have an environmentally friendly alternative from our taps. It is only slightly less convenient to fill your own reusable bottle at home and tuck it in your purse; and if you want you can use a filter. The result is still several thousand times less energy and burden on the environment and also several thousand times less cost to you. So the first answer is that giving up bottled water is the low hanging fruit for a more environmentally friendly and responsible lifestyle. The second answer is that the fast growing, widespread reliance on bottled water- bottled water as a way of life - is undermining support for water as a commons, a resource that communities manage and protect for both present and future needs. US consumers spent $16 billion last year on bottled water while needed repairs to public water infrastructure went begging. 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. Article 39 asks citizens to voluntarily abstain from single serving bottled water as a responsible civic act because they understand that, environmentally and socially, Concord’s own clean and safe tap water is a better choice.
Bob Andrews March 10, 2011 at 08:35 PM
I keep hearing that research shows that voluntary measures and education by themselves are not effective in bringing about meaningful change. I would like to know what research was done, who did it, and what scientific methods were employed. It is a sweeping statement that sounds good, but may not bear up when closely examined. We are discussing consumer behavior with regard to the purchase of bottled water. Perhaps we should ask what sort of legislative mandate got people started drinking bottled water on such a large scale? Millions of people started buying it, I think, because of effective marketing strategies used by corporations. Consumers changed their behavior quite voluntarily because an "educational campaign" led them to believe that it is healthy, convenient, and "cool" to buy it and bring it wherever they go. What we need now is an equally well designed educational campaign to change us back to tap water. How can we convince people that it is "cool" to use tap water and carry reusable bottles? There are well tested marketing strategies out there, and we all know they work. Whether or not bottled water is banned in Concord stores, consumer attitudes and behavior can change when people understand and accept that drinking tap water is a socially and environmentally accepted behavior.
Jane Manilych March 11, 2011 at 12:00 AM
I support the voluntary ban because this allows us to promulgate our shared community values and educate one another about the issue of bottled water. If we pass the voluntary ban , there will be a tremendous incentive to educate one another about the benefits of using our own tap water so we get more people to jump on board. Moreover, we will over time begin to start providing more outlets for potable water throughout Concord. This might mean, for example, that businesses will find ways to provide "Concord water" in their facilities at their own expense. With thousands of tourists passing through Concord each year, we can begin to educate them about our commitment to leaving the plastic behind. However, a mandatory ban sends the opposite signal. It shows us to be inflexible to individual health needs, personal preferences, and yes business concerns. People will be angry not receptive! Those businesses and individuals who adhere to a voluntary ban will be rewarded in our community over the long run. People do have strong taste preferences when it comes to water and it is not our business as a community to criticize people because they don't like their tap water or refuse to share a public fountain for whatever personal reason. It is our business to start educating those who share our community about the benefits of finding alternative water supplies sans plastic. A voluntary ban will do that and we will feel better that we didn't force it upon anyone.
Common Sense March 17, 2011 at 09:04 PM
I really don't understand your arguments. Is a thirsty tourist not able to buy a non-water refreshment? Soda? Lemonade? Flavored water? Most soda fountains also dispense plain water, too, if Mr. thirsty is at such an establishment. Granted bottle water may be _slightly_ convenient, but the cost for that convenience is huge! The concept of commericially available bottled water is so hurtful to this planet on so many levels. I encourage you to watched the movie 'Tapped'. http://www.hulu.com/watch/192680/tapped Find out more information at http://tappedthemovie.com/ Wasn't there a time when we lived without this crap? If Mr. Thristy gets educated in the his _epic_ quest of having to search for water to quench his thirst in this 1st world country, I'm all for it.

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