The home of the American Revolution has had another revolutionary idea. Concord, Mass., is the first town or city in the U.S. to ban the sale of standard-sized plastic water bottles.
Starting Tuesday, residents of the small historic town were no longer able to buy bottles of water smaller than one liter. The handiest, most common bottles sold in vending machines and convenience stores hold 16 ounces, or a half a liter.
Jean Hill, an 84-year-old Concord resident, led a three-year campaign by local activists and is credited or faulted for stripping Poland Spring and Evian from the hands of Concord's 18,000 mostly-affluent consumers.
Hill proposed banning the sale of bottled water at a town meeting in 2010, according to the New York Times. Some 300 voters joined her cause, claiming that cutting down on plastic would reduce waste and fossil fuels.
"I'm going to work until I drop on this," she told the Times. "If you believe in something, you have to persist and you have to have a thick skin."
Hill was inspired by her grandson, who was 10 at the time, after he told her about a floating island of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean.
Americans consume 50 billion half-liter water bottles a year, according to the campaign Ban the Bottle, and only 23 percent of them are recycled. It takes 17 million barrels of oil per year to make the plastic water bottles used in the U.S., which theoretically could fuel 1.3 million cars for a year.
Concord and Hill are facing some pushback from plastic water bottle makers. Tom Lauria, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, threatened that the group is currently exploring its legal options.
"It's a completely legal commodity, and to ban it runs afoul of interstate commerce considerations," he told the Times.
In a letter to the town, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said she was confident the law could stand up in court. She cited a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Minnesota law that banned the sale of milk in non-returnable, non-refillable plastic containers to reduce solid waste, according to NBC News.
Some local businesses feel the ban imposes on their rights and claim that bottled water sales will simply go out of town. If stores are caught selling the now contraband bottles, first-time offenders get off with a warning. Second-time offenders will be fined $25, and the fine goes up $50 for additional offenses. An exemption is allowed during emergencies, according to the Associated Press.
A few towns are starting to follow Concord’s lead. San Francisco is considering an ordinance that would require owners of new and renovated buildings to install water-filling stations, NBC News reported, and the city already has such stations at various parks, schools, and its airport. In 2009, an Australian town enacted a ban on bottled water.
Though mom-and-pop stores and the bottled water association are not happy with the ban, Hill says she will not stop her crusade to make the planet a little bit greener.
“We’re trashing our planet, all because of greed,” Hill said.
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