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In Fight Against Privatized Water, Bottles Banned in Concord, Mass

'The bottled water companies are draining our aquifers and selling it back to us'

Jacob Chamberlain

Concord, Massachusetts became the first town in the nation to ban the sale of plastic water bottles as a new bylaw went into effect Tuesday, following years of campaigning by local activists.

The ban was approved in April at a Town meeting in Concord, the old stomping grounds of Henry David Thoreau among other notable transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, following a three-year local campaign that urged residents to return to tap water—citing plastic waste, water waste, and the use of fossil fuels in the plastic water bottle industry as reasons to go back to the tap.

"The bottled water companies are draining our aquifers and selling it back to us," Jean Hill, leader of the Concord campaign, stated in an earlier interview.

Americans consume roughly 50 billion small bottles of water each year.

According to the book Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, written by Peter Gleick, the past 30 years have seen corporations brand what was "once a free natural resource into a multibillion-dollar industry, while raising doubts about the taste and safety of local drinking water," the Globe and Mail writes today.

In an separate interview with Concord Conserves, Hill admitted that the bylaw, which is restricted to the sale of single-serving bottles, will not prevent people in Concord from buying other amounts of bottled water or single-serving bottles in neighboring towns, but emphasized that the move is still an important step in the battle against the wasteful practices of the bottled water industry. Hill stated:

...what I'm trying to do with this Bylaw is to increase the barriers to buying single-serve bottled water because in order to help people change, you need to put policies in place that steer them away from buying bottled water and toward considering the many other good alternatives.

She continued:

I am hoping that this will be a call to action to other towns and states that will also start restricting single-serve bottled water purchases, and that will eventually lead to a reduction in wasted resources, pollution of waterways and wildlife, and global warming. I'm very concerned for our resources and feel we need to conserve them as much as possible now. I know this town is full of well-educated people who look at the big picture and care about the impact of today’s choices.  I am counting on them to be people who will take meaningful action on a serious issue.

The ban includes non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less in the Town of Concord. If the law is broken and a store refuses to participate in the ban, a first offense will result in a warning; the second, a $25 fine; and every offense thereafter, a $50 fine.

The law exempts the sale of bottled water in an "emergency adversely affecting the availability and/or quality of drinking water to Concord residents."

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