The big plastic debate: Concord, Mass., bans

single-serving bottles

Stock.xchng photo by clix

It has been three years in the making, but the first city in the United States has officially banned single-serving plastic water bottles. The efforts in Concord, Mass., were headed by Jean Hill, a then 82-year-old activist, who said, “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.” 

The ban on single-serving water bottles began Jan. 1. Despite some lesser penalties for violating the law — stores will be fined up to $50 — this is still a great achievement and is touted for setting an example for other communities. And don’t worry: In case of an emergency, bottle water will be available. As writer Michael Graham Richard points out, that’s how bottled water used to be — only used when water is desperately needed but can’t be obtained any other way — and how it should have stayed.

Why is this important? For a few reasons, listed by the organization Ban the Bottle:

  • It takes up to 17 million barrels of oil per year to make all the plastic water bottles used in the United States, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for one year.
  • If about 50 billion water bottles are used per year (as it was in 2007), about 38 billion end up in landfills (recycling rates are only about 23 percent.)
  • Let’s talk money — if you drink the recommended eight cups of water per day, it would cost $0.49 per year from the tap, but $1,400 per year from bottled water.

It isn’t always easy to kick the habit, but one way is to keep a water bottle or cup nearby at all times. Store a mug at work and use the water fountain; put one in your gym bag and your vehicle; there are even collapsible ones that can be rolled up and stored in your purse or back pocket.

Have you kicked the bottle habit? Why or why not? 

Bethany Fehlinger

Bethany Fehlinger is a journalist in the Design Center at the York Daily Record. She is a graduate of Penn State University and has been a vegetarian and geek for more than six years. Twitter: @Wonder_veggie

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