Here’s What Happens When a Town Bans Plastic Water Bottles
College campuses are one thing, they say, but it’s impossible to completely ban single-use plastic water bottles in a town. Well, they’re right – and they’re also absolutely wrong. Because four years ago this very month, residents of Concord, Massachusetts, voted to essentially ban the bottle. They voted to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles, and the following January, the measure went into effect.
First, some background.
Jean Hill is an 88-year-old grandmother who learned about garbage patches – and their proliferation of plastic – in the ocean from her grandson. A bit of research confirmed her worst fears – that despite an uptick in recycling, some two million tons of plastic water bottles still end up in landfills every single year.
To Hill, the best place to start reducing all that plastic was with stopping the worst offenders, and that’s what she set out to do. But it wasn’t easy. Local merchants were none too pleased, and the International Bottled Water Association put up a big fight too. Still, when the measure went into effect, all local merchants were on board.
There’s a small loophole, because anything flavored that comes in a plastic bottle can be sold, and so can bottled water sold a 1.5-liter bottle or more. That means that while healthy, hydrating water isn’t available for purchase in small sizes, you can still buy small, sugary drinks.
But three years after the ban went into effect, it’s become a normal part of day-to-day life in the small, historic town.
Now, Concord residents are watching the unfolding events in San Francisco with interest. The city by the bay introduced a ban on the sale of single-use plastic bottles on property owned by the city, and this fall, that measure will also include outdoor events hosted on public property. In two years, the ban will extend again, and large-scale events of 250,000 people or more will also fall under its umbrella.
And with three years of living the ban-the-bottle lifestyle, Concord residents have a few tips for San Francisco, and any other city considering the same.
- Make it easy for residents to fill up around town. Water filling stations make local tap water easy and accessible, and that rewards people for toting around those reusable water bottles.
- Get the word out. We’ve been told for years that tap water is unsafe, but the majority of local tap water in our country’s municipalities is very high quality. It’s also cheap. A two-fold campaign reminding residents to carry reusable water bottles and promoting the quality of local tap water can be very effective.
Banning the single-use water bottle doesn’t come easy, but change rarely does. Concord is tangible proof that banning the disposable water bottle can be done. Let’s hope other cities are taking note.