Bottles Banned

Concord's annual Town Meeting voted Wednesday night to ban the sale of single-serving PET water bottles.

After nearly two hours of debate, attempted amendments and a recount, Concord Town Meeting voted to ban the sale of single-serving PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles of less than 1 liter (34 ounces).

Although passed by Town Meeting, the bylaw has to be signed into law by Attorney General Martha Coakley in order to start its enforcement at the beginning of next year.

The Presentation

Petitioner and resenter Jean Hill was joined by Jill Appel and Francesca Gentile, who took turns speaking about the troubles surrounding single-serving PET water bottles, focusing mainly on the their wasteful properties and the fact that they are untested and potentially dangerous to one's health.

Another key point in their argument was by passing the bylaw, tap water would become more available. The trio equated dropping the bottles from stores to other green movements, such as biking instead of driving and hanging washed clothes out to dry versus using a machine.

Although the Board of Selectmen took no action on the issue, Selectman Jeffery Weiand brought up the fact that if the new bylaw is approved by the state, it would be legally binding which incurs fines for those who continue to distribute it; a warning for first offense, $25 for a second, and $50 for a third.

Weiand noted that passing the bylaw could draw litigation from bottling companies and individuals who raise the idea the law is unconstitutional and a violation of civil liberties. Weiand mentioned that these possible legal entanglements could cost Concord a great deal in future legal fees.

Following Weiand, Jim Crosby, owner of in Concord, spoke against the passage of the bylaw. 

According to Crosby, banning the sale of bottled water would have a negative impact on his business and others. The bylaw also may reduce recycling in town due to a void on sales of the commonly recycled item, he said.

Guest speaker Huw Kingston, who came all the way from the small town of Bundanoon, Australia, the first Australian town to ban single-serving PET water bottles, explained how proud Bundanoon was to go through with the ban. Kingston also raised the point that his town's small businesses made more in re-fillable water bottles in a day than they had all year in selling single-serving PET water bottles.

The Amendments

At this point, two amendments were raised. The first was to exempt Crosby's and from the ban in order to keep selling bottled water at some popular small businesses in town. The second amendment added to the anti-ban list based on the idea that single-serving PET water bottles are used as part of the regular function of the hospital and not being able to buy them in Concord would disrupt the hospital's current state.

Both amendments were shot down by a wide margin.

The Debate

The arguments on both sides of the issue were numerous as dozens of residents took to the mic to make their piece heard. Town Moderator, Eric E. Van Loon, bounced back and forth between the equally devoted pro and con sides.

Many issues were raised both for the ban and against it. Here is a brief rundown of the points Concord residents made during the debate.

Pro: The ban is a symbolic and environmentally positive article that has a chance to make an impact at the state level and could grab attention on a national or world level if passed. Some studies reveal that PET bottled water contain harmful carcinogens. The ban will reduce Concord's overall consumption of plastics. The ban would help support world-wide water shortage and corporate monopolies on water sales. The ban would increase the use of free tap water. The ban could lead to more water fountains in town. Despite the ban, people will still support Crosby's Market.

Con: The ban takes away a personal freedom and could cause future incursions on other civil liberties. The ban could spur residents to buy less-healthy products instead of water. The ban could turn the public away from other environmental issues if they disagree. The ban could be seen as a form of prohibition - what products are next? The ban has no practical benefits for individual citizens. Article 32 contained no cost analysis. Some prefer the taste of single-serving bottled water. In an emergency, It would take several days to supply Concord with single-serving bottled water if needed. The water itself causes no harm.

The Vote

There were two votes on the issue, and a call for reconsideration. The first vote went 484 to 403 for the ban, according to the moderator's eye. The second vote -- counted by tellers after former modarator Ned Perry challenged the first -- was 403 to 364 for the ban, causing it to pass by 39 votes.

A reconsideration of the vote was then brought up by Ted Stephens to consider voting on the issue tomorrow night. A debate followed whether a reconsideration by this was within Concord's Town Meeting bylaws. A vote was taken to establish if a reconsideration was possible. The vote to reconsider failed and the bylaw was officially adopted.

What Now?

The next phase of this issue will have Article 32 go before Attorney General Martha Coakley, who will determine if the bylaw is constitutional and therefore lawful to impose. According to the selectmen, it will take several months to hear the outcome of this important issue. , citing that the language of the bylaw was inadequate to deserve becoming a law. There has since been hints by Coakley that if the language was corrected, she would enforce the bylaw.

Katie April 30, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I fully support the bottled water industry and my right to choose the healthiest beverage option that is packaged in a recyclable plastic container. I wish activists and lawmakers would divert their efforts away from targeting just one of thousands of products packaged in plastic and instead focus on increasing the awareness, accessibility and use of recycling facilities. That is what they claim it's all about, right? -Keeping recyclable products from ending up in a landfill. Side note: I don't buy their point about them believing the plastic is "harmful" or they would be targeting ALL products manufactured using PET containers (soft drinks, peanut butter, salad dressing, cosmetics, etc.) If you truly think that PET is harmful, why only ban its use in water bottles? Furthermore, recyclable plastics end up in landfills for one reason: the end users (you) are uninformed about recycling, lazy or just don't care. When properly recycled, plastics can certainly take on a new life - from fleece pullovers, school lunch trays and kayaks to garden supplies, carpet and plastic piping - all of these items can be made from recycled plastics. Stop the bans and start recycling.
Tania Pulido May 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM
i agree with the ban!- the process of creating bottles is dirty, i live within 3 miles of a refinery and they make plastic containers, we have high rates of asthma and cancer...not only that but even when a plastic bottle goes through the recycling process both people and the environment are still harmed. I went to Detroit last year and visited the largest incinerator in the world where they recycle plastic and it was horrible, both the smell and the negative affects people had to endure. From the energy needed to create plastic, to the pumping of water, to the shipping, disposal and waste...its clear that true cost of plastic bottles outweigh the benefits. Stop being lazy and buy a filter and carry a reusable water bottle. This is not about you, its bigger than us, and it will have consequences after your death. Im in my early 20's and hope my generation changes the irrational habits of today, such as one time products.
Katy G. May 17, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Katie, you make such a good point! There's a manufacturing plant in New Hampshire that makes carpeting for large venues such as Marriot Hotels. They make their carpeting entirely from recycled plastic bottles. Most of the citizens of Concord are well educated and fairly mindful of the environment. The plant in New Hampshire doesn't receive enough recycled plastic to keep up with demand, so they've had to resort to buying more from China! Removing plastic water bottles from the cycle to make a few people feel morally superior is actually hurting the recycling industries that benefit from the process.
Katy G. May 17, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Detroit needs all of the industries it can get. After years of being run by corrupt politicians and union thugs the city is literally in ruins. If you want to shut down an industry in Detroit because you think it's unfair to its citizens, why don't you take a good look at this and think about the consequences: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/02/ruins-of-detroit-yves-marchand-romain-meffre/#.TxseMUvuUJu.facebook
Vanessa Lagrange January 10, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Now bottled water is banned, we could start making a change in our life style. It is not a big deal, carry with you a reusable bottled and fill it in a drinking fountain. I know most people think tap water is not safe and that is true but there is a healthy and safe way to drink tap water and assure you a pure water and it is called Aquasmarter. They sell a reusable bottle with a purifier inside. I and my husband have one of them, and it is amazing, since we have it, we have no worries about drinking tap water.


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