In an issue with environmental, health and water rights ramifications, Concord, Mass. last week became the first U.S. city to ban the sale of individual-size bottled water. The state’s Attorney General approved amendments that the town made to its bylaws after a 403-364 vote by citizens.
Supporters of the hotly-debated measure cited the waste caused by discarded plastic bottles, the potential for chemicals to leach from the bottles and cause health problems and the privatization of a vital natural resource.
Opponents argued that shoppers seeking to buy bottled water would do so in stores outside of Concord, taking their business away from local grocery stores. Others objected to singling out water, when tens of thousands of products are sold in plastic packaging.
Food & Water Watch, an advocacy group, applauded the move.
“The sale of bottled water amounts to the privatization of a natural resource, which should be guaranteed as a human right and not sold at exorbitant prices,” said Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Not only does bottled water cost more, the discarded bottles add up and create waste, which often makes its way to landfills. Bottled water is not safer than tap water — it undergoes less testing, and the plastic bottles can leach chemical contaminants into the water.”
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) said the industry has expanded its use of recycled plastic, with many bottled water companies are already using up to 50 percent recycled material in their plastic bottles. The IBWA also said that recycling rates for single serve bottled water containers are on the rise.