Massachusetts Town First to Ban Bottled Water Sales

water bottles

Now this is what I want to see more of in the headlines. Residents of Concord, Massachusetts recently voted to ban sales of bottled water, making their city the first in the US to make such a decision. In an era of throwaway everything and patches of trash floating in the ocean, measures such as these will be serious catalysts to curbing our consumption and the waste that follows.

But the bottled water industry is not happy with that, of course. From Care2:

The International Bottled Water Association issued a statement threatening a “legal challenge” comparing bottled water to other products, such as cleaning supplies, food and other beverages. Their argument is that they shouldn’t be singled out for producing a wasteful product when everyone else is doing it too.

And while it’s absolutely true that bottled water is not the only wasteful product on the market, that reason alone is certainly not enough to justify its existence. There is absolutely no benefit to bottled water.

A bottled water ban: good reasons for it

A whopping 88 percent of plastic water bottles are not recycled, at the rate of 30 million a day, according to the Container Recycling Institute. The 60 million plastic bottles a day that the US manufactures cannot be redeemed for cash unlike other drink containers. Not only that, but producing and distributing bottled water uses up to 2,000 times the amount of energy used to produce tap water, an insane figure that simply is not sustainable, especially since the entire manufacturing process is hugely polluting, too, resulting in large greenhouse gas emissions.

The bottled water industry claims that consumers’ convenience simply cannot be denied, but that’s exactly what should be happening. It is too convenient to simply open up a bottle of water, drink it, and toss the bottle in the trash instead of having the foresight to bring your own water from home in recycled and reusable drinking containers.

Bottle water isn’t even good for us, either:

In March 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council report, “Bottled Water, Pure Drink or Pure Hype?” revealed that as much as 40 percent of all bottled water comes from a city water system, just like tap water. Federal regulations also don’t require bottled water to be any better than tap water, and FDA standards don’t apply to water that’s bottled and sold in the same state.

Let’s hope that Concord’s ordinance holds up and is not taken down by the International Bottled Water Association. Bring on the ban!

No need to wait for a ban: you can easily eliminate bottled water from your own life without giving up convenience. We’ve got water filters, distillers, and reusable water bottles to help you.

Image credit: Flickr via Bob B. Brown

  1. Tom Lauria -- IBWA

    As VP of IBWA, I think it would be useful to correct the record. About 30.9% of bottled water containers are recycled — not 18%. While 30.9% is still too high, the light-weighting of our bottles by 32% over the past 8 years mean one out of three “old” bottles never see a landfill in the first place. We are working with other beverage-makers, other food makers and local governments to boost recycling and make the public more ware of its many benefits. If there’s “absolutely no benefit to bottled water,” please check with 2 million people in greater Boston who needed it fiercely only two weeks ago.

    We regret you disregard the importance of humna hydration. “It’s too convenient” to drink water whenever you want it or need it? If you put humans first, you’d never even think a thought like that.

    By the way, FDA standards apply to every single bottle of water in America, without exception. As just as you state that water filters are good, imagine how good PROFESSIONALLY purified water — to U.S. Pharmacopiea standards — really is!

    Concord, Mass. will be reviewedby the State Attorney General, not IBWA, for a final determination about its legality.

  2. Robert Atkins

    What ignorance is there from these narrow minded individuals and from the writer of this article.
    You are really ignorant and very limited in your thinking. You should not be allowed to blog or write your opinions.
    Let’s see what happens to this town in an emergency.
    If they want a ban on the bottled water, they should sign a waiver to not to beg for bottled water in an emergency.
    What is this world coming to when people allow all sort of unnecessary food and beverage to be sold and they want to ban water, how pathetic is this. These guys should be put away to even suggest this, they justify their opinions by saying its good for the environment, the environment doesn’t need these silly individuals to help them, it can deal with it in its own way.

    Give me bottled water any time.

  3. Marmaduke

    A few thoughts in response to Mr. Lauria:
    (1) Single use bottles are not the only way to hydrate humans and you know that. It’s not that opponents of bottled water are anit-human, we just care about other things in addition to hydration. Re-usable bottles hydrate humans just as well as single use bottles (although I’m not sure there is a study to back that up yet), and they do it with using much less petroleum and and creating much less pollution.
    (2) You’re overselling the your hyper-pure water. I’d wager that most people prefer (marketing aside) the taste of water with some impurities in it over truly pure water.

    As for the ban, I doubt it will stand up to legal examination. I’m always skeptical of outright bans in most situations and I don’t think it is the right approach for bottled water. One way to approach this problem is to consider that the consumer doesn’t (directly) see the full cost of choosing bottled water over tap. (The waste and pollution are externalities in economics lingo.) Some sort of tax applied to each bottle could do this. Or, what about fining a company for every one of its bottles found as litter. I’m sure that’s not legal either, but it’d be fun.

  4. ziggy

    Theoretically speaking, even if 80% of all water bottles were recycled, that would still be 12 million bottles a day leftover that enter the waste stream. How can that be justified? How is that good for anyone?

    I do put humans first, along with the environment, upon which we are undeniably and intimately dependent and linked. If we continue to pollute and create massive amounts of waste, we’re affecting that world that sustains us. The sorry thing is that many people fail to make this connection. We’re dependent on healthy ecosystems and cannot survive without them. Oceans full of garbage, dirty air, polluted rivers, toxic soil… these things are going to kill us. (If they aren’t already.) Huge numbers of water bottles (that don’t exactly biodegrade) are not helping.

  5. Kate

    I help to run a Festival in Western Massachusetts in the fall. I am interested how the town of Concord will provide fresh water to the public. My understanding is that having large containers of water does not pass most Board of Health requirements since the outbreak of Legionnaires Disease a long time ago. As a logistical problem, I would be interested on the Town’s approach. Thank you.

  6. Enagic USA

    Good article. The waste that bottled water creates (along with all the energy and oil used to produce it) is unnecessary. Since other cities have successfully banned plastic bags from supermarkets, it seems that banning bottled water should be legally possible. Bottled water is less regulated for safety than tap water. The healthiest choice is to use a water ionizer to filter and purify tap water in your home.

  7. StevenB

    Every town in the U.S. should be as progressive as Concord, MA. The American public has bought into the marketing of bottled water at a very expensive price.

    The best way to get good clean pure water is with a water purification system in your own home. Then you can carry a stainless steel water bottle with you.

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