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David Scribner
Monument Mountain Regional High School students Carly Terranova, Grace Phair and Olivia Jaffe captured the audience’s attention while speaking in support of the plastic bottle ban at Great Barrington’s town meeting May 7.

A student’s perspective on the plastic water bottle  debate

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By Saturday, May 26, 2018 Viewpoints 27

Great Barrington — Mass production of plastic only started six decades ago, but in that time has increased so quickly that it has already generated 8.3 billion metric tons, 6.3 billion tons of which have already become plastic waste. According to findings by National Geographic, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills by the year 2050 if we don’t do something about it.

Given that, you’d think that everyone everywhere would be doing everything possible to slow down the rate at which we cover our planet in plastic trash. When two of my close friends told me that they were part of the Environment Committee of the Berkshire Women’s Action Group to ban single-use plastic water bottles in Great Barrington, I was excited. When they told me they spoke about it at a Town Meeting, and that the vote passed, I was elated. They were, too. In fact, the majority of my friends have been nothing but excited for a less plastic-filled future. So I was surprised when I opened Facebook and found that the Great Barrington Community Board forum had been flooded with debate about water bottles. I was even more surprised when I dug in and found that the debates were really arguments, and the whole thing had devolved into incivility.

A river of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean.

From a teenager’s perspective, the water bottle ban is wholeheartedly good news. Almost everyone I know already brings a reusable water bottle to school (many in bright colors or covered in fun stickers), and I don’t foresee the ban changing our day-to-day life in any way. In fact, I don’t see this being a major detriment in any way to most citizens of Great Barrington. Reusable water bottles can usually hold more water than disposable and aren’t all that hard to wash at all.

One of the things that my friends and I talk about a lot is the fact that adults often act hopeless instead of looking for a solution, which is part of why I was so excited to find out that the adults at the Great Barrington Annual Town Meeting actually supported this action. Americans use approximately 91,733,000,000 individual, single-use plastic water bottles per year. At this point, when we need an 11-digit number to count our water bottle waste, any step in the right direction is a good one.

I honor the fact that the water bottle ban will be a big adjustment for the small businesses of Great Barrington. I recognize that it will mean a little bit more effort on all of our parts. I understand that it will make sodas and soft drinks look more appealing, in a pinch, but I’m also very, very aware of the harm we’re causing our planet every day, and I’m very, very passionate about throwing all my weight behind something — anything — that might simultaneously make a difference, inspire others around the country and world, and start a conversation about what measures need to be taken in order to sustain a planet that is healthy to live on long into the future.

And at the very least, this has most certainly caused a conversation. I encourage those of you who oppose the ban, instead of continuing to argue with other adults on Facebook, to talk to a high-schooler about this. Many of us are well-educated on the topic and have a lot to say. You might find that our passion can inspire you to support the first step in a movement that just might, with enough help, actually make a difference someday.

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27 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Marc says:

    Yawn. These students were used by the 4 women who started this movement. No one wanted to get up and go against 3 baby deer. Why not go into the community and help the elderly? The addicts who wander up and down Main Street all day? And WHY are there SO many help wanted signs everywhere you look?

    1. Emily Carlotta says:

      Hi Marc,

      I am not a high school student, nor do I 100% support the ban simply because some people cannot drink the water that comes from their tap at home for a variety of reasons. However, I am impressed that the youth of this town is actually doing something. They are not merely hiding behind their computers and typing out accusatory and potentially false statements, they found a cause that was important to them, clearly not a cause that you approve of, but a cause that is constructive and makes a change in the world around them, and they chose to do something about it. That is what we want of our youth, to become involved in their communities. Have you spoken to any of them to ask if they are involved in their communities in other ways? They might already be doing other things and added this to their list of causes, and this just happened to me a more public forum which is why you and I heard about their actions.

      Opinions are always welcome, but facts are required. The young lady did cite her sources for her facts in her letter. Can you cite your sources for the “facts” that you wrote in your comment? Do you know for a fact that the four women did not believe in their cause? Do you know for a fact they do not assist in their communities in other ways? What do the help wanted signs in town have to do with their water bottle ban?

      I think we all can learn something from these young women, which is if you have a cause that is important to you. Do something. Marc, what will you do today that changes your community for the better?

      1. Marc says:

        Dear Emily, save your dissertation for someone who cares. Blah blah blah. Small town politics. Feel good ban. I know LOTS of stuff about people around here. Bored women looking for a “cause”. Wanting to be remembered for something and justify their existence. About half of them don’t even live in GB. We can all google things and find “facts” to back whatever.
        BTW.. the highest form of charity is anonymity.

      2. Tim Newman says:


        Sadly, you’re wasting your time attempting to reason with “Marc.” He is clearly nothing more, or less, than an angry man.

      3. Michael says:

        Marc is an angry uneducated troll but he serves a useful purpose. He exposes himself as everything that is deeply wrong with people who think like him. Thank you, Marc.

  2. anni crofut says:

    Thank you Claudia for this letter, for your clarity of thought, your diplomacy, your activism and your positive vision in putting yourself out there and making your opinions known to the community.

  3. Donna Jacobs says:

    Brava Claudia,
    Thank you for your infirmation packed article. My hope is that this grass roots movement will catch on and other towns and states will adopt solutions like this one. It is movement in the right direction. With that, I support groups holding corporations accountable for solutions to protect, rather than poison, our environment.

  4. Ira Kaplan says:

    The Edge should change its policy to only publish letters with the full name of the letter-writer to avoid this type of anonymous noise.

    1. Joseph Method says:

      The Edge should update its comment software so that people have to log in under an account to comment. Something like Disqus (but please without the evil curiosity gap clickbait turned on). A bonus would be that it wouldn’t have the weird threading behavior on here.

    2. Lucinda Shmulsky says:

      Yes,a full name required on the comment section would greatly improve the level of discourse. However, a guideline to present ones views based on merit: the pros or cons of the topic discussed; not defamation of character would greatly enhance the website as well.

    3. Carl Stewart says:

      I fully agree with Mr. Kaplan on the policy with respect to complete names being required for a comment to be posted. I have been urging this policy…quite clearly without any effect…for the past few years. Unless there is a very compelling reason for The Edge to preserve anonymity, it shouldn’t be allowed.

  5. Susan Thompson Barrett says:

    Keep talking, Claudia. Sometimes people get comfortable and stuck in their positions but the calm exchange of ideas is the hallmark of our democracy.

  6. Marc says:

    people are easily manipulated and led astray like sheep. And come together for disdain. Too easy. LOL

    1. Brian Tobin says:

      Yes, as we saw with the 2016 election.

      Thanks to both Claudia and Laura Keefner for actually taking time to argue their respective viewpoints and take action. I have to say, this ban on single serving plastic plain water bottles is puzzling to me. Yesterday I bought three 8 packs of single serving water bottles in Great Barrington. The difference was the water in the bottles is sparkling with lemon flavor. I paid a 5 cent deposit on each bottle because I like the product and it is worth it to me to save each bottle and return them to the store to get my $1.20 back. Non deposit plastic bottles for plain water should be treated the same way, but if they cannot be, every town around here has a large recycling dumpster at the transfer station where ALL plastics should and usually do end up for recycling. So yes, we should try to use less unnecessary packaging, we should provide incentives and easy access to recycling, and we should preserve the rights of consumers to make their own choices.

  7. Steve Farina says:

    Good morning Claudia, this is me, an adult, talking to you, a high school student. My intention is to treat you like the adult you are becoming as I write this comment. I do not have enough time to share everything on this topic that I am capable of sharing this morning, nor the thought processes involved in fully analyzing an issue such as this.
    I applaud your taking the time to research what you have and to write about I publicly.
    I have a few questions for you. Maybe you will take some time and answer them…
    What benefits have been derived from the rapid 60 year increase in the widespread use of plastics?
    (One clue I will give you is the weight difference between plastic and say, metal or glass )

    How does the effect of supply and demand dictate the choice retailers make when choosing to offer a product for sale, or not to offer that product?

    In a free society, is it allowable, and/or ethical, for government laws to regulate the use of a single product solely because of its packaging, while not subjecting that product’s competitors to the same standard?

    While you consider these questions I hope you take the time to read through the article, letters to the editor, and comments about the so called “single use” ban on unflavored water bottles of a size 1 liter or less . I also encourage you to contemplate opinions that may be counter to your own, as well as a more complete list of facts – taking in as many data points as you possibly can, stepping back and taking a broad view of the real issue at hand.

    Then, let’s talk again.

    1. Joseph Method says:

      Extremely condescending, Steve. I wouldn’t respond to a message like that myself, at any age. But let me answer your questions:

      1. Plastic is popular because it is convenient (weight, cost, etc.). Is anybody arguing against that?
      2. If there weren’t a demand for disposable water bottles retailers wouldn’t sell it. Is anybody arguing against that? Let me ask you a question: what role does marketing and lack of investment in public infrastructure play in shaping that demand? (I’ll give you a clue: companies like Nestle spend millions of dollars to promote the idea that only bottled water is clean while public water infrastructure falls apart).
      3. Of course government has a right to regulate products based on the harmfulness of materials involved. They use this authority to regulate items made out of asbestos and lead, aerosol products containing CFCs, shampoos with plastic microbeads, fireworks, etc., etc. It doesn’t matter if that regulation could benefit competitors (e.g. the shampoo without microbeads).

      1. Steve Farina says:

        Joseph, if you read my intention at the beginning of my comment you would have seen I was responding to Claudia’s exhortation for adults to speak to high schoolers. Personally, I find your unwillingness to allow Claudia speak for herself to be condescending.
        Claudia, I did not mean for my reply to come across as condescending, merely as guidance. I had hoped that you would find more civility in the discussions on The Edge, but alas, apparently that may not be the case.

      2. Steve Farina says:

        Now Joseph,
        1) widespread use of plastics implies just that. Plastics are used in automobiles, for instance, to lower the overall weight of the vehicle and improve fuel economy. This improves the carbon footprint of autos. Gallon milk containers made of plastic are far lighter than glass jars or steel containers, which means the trucks that transport them use less fuel and it lowers their carbon footprint. Plastics are used in construction of homes because they are durable and require less maintenance than say, wood. This means more trees are standing. Plastic pipes are all the rage in plumbing, they are flexible, durable, easy to connect and reduce the demand for copper mining.
        2) If you think municipal tap water is safer than many of the available bottled water options, then we will have to agree to disagree in that.
        You say clean, I say chlorine. You say plastic, I say THMs. We could go back and forth all day on that.
        3) Clearly you misunderstand contents from packaging. If unscented Aveeno shampoo (I dont even know if that exists, it is for analogy) is banned because it is in a 1 liter plastic bottle and Aveeno fruit scented shampoo is allowed to be in a 1 liter bottle because it is scented, then that’s ok? The bottle ban that was passed has nothing to do with a hazardous component of the content of the bottle, in fact it is quite the opposite.

  8. Mickey Friedman says:

    Thank you, Claudia, for your concern and commitment and, because I care about writing, your very well written letter. But I think it’s a bit more complicated than hopelessness. I don’t buy single use water bottles but I live in a world addicted to plastic. In so many ways our world is shaped by the marketplace. I grew up in a world where you could easily find public water fountains, there was a thriving affordable public transportation system – in the course of my life capitalism has diverted taxpayer money from public education and transportation, housing, environmental protection to a bloated and unnecessary defense economy and corporate tax cuts. We all make choices – including our choices on how we spend our dwindling spare time to fight for a better world. There are many people, probably for worse rather than better, who have become used to plastic water bottles – perhaps if there were easily found water fountains that wouldn’t have happened. Meanwhile there are many small business owners who have answered the demand of their customers for these products. To me there is an answer to the problem – recycling. The plastic water bottles – just like the plastic shopping bags we banned – can be easily recycled. It’s a problem because there is no longer the same profit in recycling than there is in manufacturing. But that’s the mathematics of capitalism not of a sustainable earth. We need a locally-based recycling center in the Berkshires. It can employ people. We can employ people to gather the trash – and plastic – from our roadsides. But we need to rediscover the notion of long-term social utility – some things may not pay for themselves in the short-term but will holistically in the long-run. Much like public education. For those convinced this kind of plastic can’t be recycled please check the successful, comprehensive recycling program of Omaha, Nebraska: http://firststarrecycling.com/recycle-guide/
    “Plastic bottles can be recycled by placing them in your curbside recycling or by taking them to one of our drop off sites … many soft plastics that were previously discarded can now be consolidated in Hefty® EnergyBags™ and converted into energy to produce cement, rather than ending up in a landfill.”
    When plastic bottles are recycled, they can be made into t-shirts, sweaters, fleece jackets, insulation for jackets and sleeping bags, carpeting and more bottles. Recycled plastic bags can become plastic lumber for park benches, backyard decks and fences – even playground equipment for kids.
    So why don’t we at least seriously consider creating a comprehensive and energetic locally-based recycling program?
    I’m old, Claudia, but not yet hopeless. And again many many thanks.

    1. Jim Balfanz says:

      Mickey, your statement that it is Capitalism’s fault that funds have been diverted from the areas you mention and spent on a bloated and unnecessary defense economy…. is simply not factual. The commentary below provides good information on where the tax $$$ come from and where they go….
      Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?
      The federal government collects taxes to finance various public services. As policymakers and citizens weigh key decisions about revenues and expenditures, it is instructive to examine what the government does with the money it collects
      October 4, 2017
      In fiscal year 2016, the federal government spent $3.9 trillion, amounting to 21 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Of that $3.9 trillion, over $3.3 trillion was financed by federal revenues. The remaining amount ($585 billion) was financed by borrowing. As the chart below shows, three major areas of spending each make up about one-fifth of the budget:
      • Social Security: Last year, 24 percent of the budget, or $916 billion, paid for Social Security, which provided monthly retirement benefits averaging $1,360 to 41 million retired workers in December 2016. Social Security also provided benefits to 3 million spouses and children of retired workers, 6 million surviving children and spouses of deceased workers, and 10.6 million disabled workers and their eligible dependents in December 2016.
      • Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and marketplace subsidies: Four health insurance programs — Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace subsidies — together accounted for 26 percent of the budget in 2016, or $1 trillion. Nearly three-fifths of this amount, or $594 billion, went to Medicare, which provides health coverage to around 57 million people who are over age 65 or have disabilities. The rest of this category funds Medicaid, CHIP, and ACA subsidy and exchange costs. In a typical month, Medicaid and CHIP provide health care or long-term care to about 74 million low-income children, parents, elderly people, and people with disabilities. (Both Medicaid and CHIP require matching payments from the states.) In 2016, 9 million of the 11 million people enrolled in health insurance exchanges received ACA subsidies, at an estimated cost of about $31 billion.
      • Defense and international security assistance: Another 16 percent of the budget, or $605 billion, paid for defense and security-related international activities. The bulk of the spending in this category reflects the underlying costs of the Defense Department. The total also includes the cost of supporting operations in Afghanistan and other related activities, described as Overseas Contingency Operations in the budget, funding for which totaled $74 billion in 2016.
      Two other categories together account for another fifth of spending:

      • Safety net programs: About 9 percent of the federal budget in 2016, or $366 billion, supported programs that provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship. Spending on safety net programs increased by only $4 billion between 2015 and 2016, and declined as a share of the budget, as the economy continued to improve.
      Safety net programs include: the refundable portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist low- and moderate-income working families; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income people, including SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care assistance, and help meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused and neglected children.
      Such programs keep millions of people out of poverty each year. A CBPP analysis using Census’ Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that government safety net programs kept some 36 million people out of poverty in calendar year 2016. Without any government income assistance, either from safety net programs or other income supports like Social Security, the poverty rate would have been 25.3 percent in 2016, nearly double the actual 14.0 percent. And these programs reduced the depth of poverty for millions more, even when not bringing them above the poverty line.
      • Interest on debt: The federal government must make regular interest payments on the money it borrowed to finance past deficits — that is, on the federal debt held by the public, which reached $14 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2016. In 2016, these interest payments claimed $240 billion, or about 6 percent of the budget.
      As the chart shows, the remaining fifth of federal spending supports a variety of other public services. These include providing health care and other benefits to veterans and retirement benefits to retired federal employees, ensuring safe food and drugs, protecting the environment, and investing in education, scientific and medical research, and basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and airports. A very small slice — less than 1 percent of the budget — goes to non-security programs that operate internationally, including programs providing humanitarian aid.
      While critics often decry “government spending,” it is important to look beyond the rhetoric and determine whether the actual public services that government provides are valuable. To the extent that such services are worth paying for, the only way to do so is ultimately with tax revenue. Consequently, when thinking about the costs that taxes impose, it is essential to balance those costs against the benefits the nation receives from public services.
      Because we discuss total federal spending, we do not distinguish programs financed by general revenues from those financed by dedicated revenues (e.g., Social Security). For more information, see Policy Basics: Federal Payroll Taxes.
      We based our estimates of spending in fiscal year 2016 on the most recent historical data released by the Office of Management and Budget. (Federal fiscal year 2016 ran from October 1, 2015, to September 30, 2016.)
      The broad expenditure categories presented in this paper were constructed on the basis of classifications commonly used by budget agencies. The categories are constructed by grouping related programs and activities into broad functions, which are further broken down into subfunctions. The details of how the categories used in this paper were constructed from those functions and subfunctions are described below.
      Social Security:
      This category consists of all expenditures in the Social Security function (650), including benefits and administrative costs.
      Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and marketplace subsidies:
      This category consists of the Medicare function (570), including benefits, administrative costs, and premiums, as well as the “Grants to States for Medicaid” account, the “Children’s health insurance fund” account, and the “Refundable Premium Tax Credit and Cost Sharing Reductions” account (all in function 550).
      Defense and international security assistance:
      The largest component of this category is the national defense function (050). In addition, this category includes the international security assistance subfunction (152) of the international affairs function.
      Safety net programs:
      This category includes all programs in the income security function (600) except those that fall in the following two subfunctions: federal employees’ retirement and disability (602) and general retirement and disability insurance (601). The latter contains the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and also covers programs that provide pension and disability benefits to certain small groups of private-sector workers.
      Interest on debt:
      This category contains the net interest function (900).
      Remaining program areas:
      This category includes all federal expenditures not included in one of the five categories defined above. The subcomponents of this category that are displayed in the graph are defined as follows:
      • Benefits for federal retirees and veterans: This subcategory combines the veterans’ benefits and services function (700) and the federal employee retirement and disability subfunction (602, which is part of the income security function).
      • Transportation: This subcategory consists of the entire transportation function (400).
      • Education: The education subcategory combines three subfunctions of the education, training, employment, and social services function: elementary, secondary, and vocational education; higher education; and research and general educational aids (subfunctions 501, 502, and 503 respectively).
      • Science and medical research: This subcategory consists of the general science, space, and technology function (250) and the health research and training subfunction (552).
      • Non-security international: This subcategory consists of the international affairs function (150) except for international security assistance, which is included with defense, above.
      • All other: This subcategory consists of all other federal expenditures.
      Federal Budget, Federal Tax
      The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs. It is supported primarily by foundation grants.

    2. Jim Balfanz says:

      Also, consider this…..
      Orlando Sentinel Opinion article by Robert Samuelson, Washington Post Writers Group….

      Defense versus welfare spending: Why defense should come first
      Trump said his defense spending increase will offer “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” But three times in recent years Congress has raised defense budgets by larger percentages than the $54 billion, or 10 percent, increase that Trump proposes.
      Robert SamuelsonWashington Post Writers Group
      The Pentagon and the welfare state have been locked in brutal combat for decades, and the Pentagon has gotten clobbered. Protecting the country was once the first obligation of government. No more. Welfare programs — Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other benefits — dwarf defense spending. As a result, we have become more vulnerable.
      Here is the assessment of Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense specialist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute:
      “The United States now fields a military that could not meet even the requirements of a benign Clinton-era world. The services have watched their relative overmatch and capacity decline in almost every domain of warfare for nearly two decades. As rival nation-states have accelerated their force development, the Department of Defense has stalled out, creating a dangerous window of relative military advantage for potential foes. While the United States continues to field the best military personnel in the world, policy makers have asked them to do too much with too little for too long.”
      Politically, the vaunted military-industrial complex has been no match for the welfare state’s personal handouts. There has been a historic transformation. In the 1950s and 1960s, defense spending often accounted for half the federal budget and equaled 8 percent to 10 percent of gross domestic product (the economy
      In 2016, defense spending was 3 percent of GDP and 15 percent of the federal budget, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Meanwhile, welfare programs — called “human resources” by the OMB — accounted for 15 percent of GDP and 73 percent of federal spending.
      (A note for policy wonks: Some military spending occurs outside the Defense Department, but including this spending would not much change trends or conclusions.)
      There are many telltale signs that defense spending, though now exceeding $600 billion annually, is being squeezed. A new study by Todd Harrison and Seamus Daniels of the Center for Strategic & International Studies reports the following:
      • “For FY fiscal year 2015, the Army’s active duty end strength reached the lowest level since the end of World War II.”
      • “The Army has noted in Congressional testimony that two-thirds of its Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) are not at an acceptable level of readiness because of personnel shortages, maintenance backlogs and insufficient training.”
      • “From its peak in FY 1987 to the trough in FY 2015, the Navy’s ship count fell by more than half.”
      • “The total aircraft inventory of the Air Force declined by 44 percent from its peak in FY 1986 to FY2016.”
      Sizable increases in defense spending seem warranted to compensate for past underfunding and to confront new challenges. China and Russia loom as potential adversaries; North Korea could become a global menace; the Middle East remains a cauldron of conflict; global terrorism survives; and new forms of warfare — cyberattacks, drones and space-based conflict — demand new responses.
      Proposals abound. The plan of AEI’s Eaglen would, among other things, increase the Army’s number of active-duty soldiers from 476,000 to 519,000; raise the number of Navy ships from 275 to 339 by 2025; expand the Air Force’s inventory of planes to 6,391 by 2022, up from 5,465; and accelerate research and procurement.
      Sen. John McCain and Rep. Mac Thornberry — the chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees — have endorsed a similar proposal. So has the Trump administration, though with less detail. The problem is not policy; it’s politics.
      Eaglen’s plan would cost $672 billion more than existing law over the next five years. Will Congress vote to spend that money? If so, will it be financed through higher taxes (seems dubious, given Republicans’ misplaced zest for tax cuts); reductions in other government programs (also dubious — if cuts were popular, they’d already have been adopted); or borrowing (the easiest alternative, but embarrassing)? Present congressional budget negotiations for FY 2018 focus on a smaller increase in defense outlays.
      Defense spending is increasingly a political orphan. Republicans are wedded to tax cuts. Democrats are addicted to welfare spending, mislabeled as “entitlements.”
      What these political preferences share in common is that they provide immediate political gratification for large constituencies: lower taxes or higher benefits. By contrast, defense spending confers smaller benefits on smaller constituencies, mainly workers at military bases and government contractors.
      In the competition for scarce public funds, the military-industrial complex is at a distinct disadvantage with the welfare state, an essential and permanent part of our social fabric. No one is going to dismantle it. But the favoritism toward the welfare state weakens the military. It is time to recognize and rectify this bias because it poses a fundamental threat to our collective well-being.

      My response, is not meant to be argumentative, nor meant to distract from the overall intent of the article. But, Mickey made some pretty amazing comments that he want to be taken as the facts, when they are not….

      And, I do agree with the other comments that nothing should be accepted for publishing/posting if it is not signed by a real person….

      1. Mickey Friedman says:

        Thank you Mr. Balfanz but here’s a simpler version:
        The U.S. outpaces all other nations in military expenditures. World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total.
        U.S. military expenditures are roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined.

        In fiscal year 2015, military spending is projected to account for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending, a total of $598.5 billion. Military spending includes: all regular activities of the Department of Defense; war spending; nuclear weapons spending; international military assistance; and other Pentagon-related spending.

        (Then add the secret intelligence agencies budgets.)

        As for the misuse of this money, how about the disastrous War in Vietnam, our overtoppling of democratic regimes in Central and South America, installing the Shah of Iran, arming the mujhaddin in Afghanistan and creating al-Qaida, replacing the secular dictatorship of Iraq with permanent extremist terror – please, our defense policy has been a string of phenomenally wasteful and counterproductive failures.

        As for the time it will take to create a viable recycling center we should have started years ago and waiting makes no sense. Just like a reasonable municipal transportation system and town-owned fiber optics …

  9. Jim Hall says:

    Claudia, thank you for speaking up and supporting your fellow classmates with this well written, and well reasoned, letter. It takes courage to enter the public forum where you will be met with a mix of responses. Marc treats you with casual snark while revealing a contempt for women. Steve Farina goes for condescension. We are counting on you and your friends to be brave and continue to make your arguments heard. Keep it up!

  10. Beth Carlson says:

    Here are a couple of notes to add in the discussion. A Berkshire based recycled plastics based manufacturing business is a brilliant idea, but would be years in development. So while this type of plastic is recyclable per Mickey Friedman’s point, it is not being recycled, and on Jan 1st, 2018, China banned the import of Western plastics, which has increased an already existing crisis.

    For what that means to the US–here is a quote from the linked article (note this is past tense, we can no longer import the following annual statistics per the ban): “The United States exports more than 13.2 million tons of scrap paper and 1.42 million tons of scrap plastics annually to China, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has reported. That is the sixth-largest American export to China.”

    Perhaps one solution for local businesses would be to have a display with Berkshire Mountain Spring 5 gallon dispensers of water next to a display of a permanent water bottle, with a fill up from the local spring water free with the purchase of the bottles–the profit margin being higher on the more expensive item? Maybe this could offset the loss of sales of single use water bottles somewhat, though my guess is it would not completely solve the issue for merchants.

    We need cultural change around the use of of plastics, and legislating cultural change is problematic, but the reality is–it may be time for some environmental Martial laws, as the many countries refuse to accept the environmental issues facing the world today. Great Barrington can have a significant positive impact, and while I think there are other ways to have addressed this issue the idea–let’s remember the real and important reasons behind the bylaw.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/world/china-recyclables-ban.html (for the above quote)

    Also, the statistics quoted in Claudia’s letter above are stunning. Please read so you can have a true understanding of the crisis level of this issue.

  11. Quinn T says:

    Right on, Claudia! Your letter gave me so much hope. thank you for speaking out. Indeed, you would think we’d be doing everything we can to fix the plastics problem. Encasing our most precious resource, water, in plastic and shipping it about seems absurd given what we know now. Here in Northampton we don’t have a ban (yet) but we have worked to get the Blue Communities designation. People have been working to get bottle fillers installed and to get merchants and other places to agree to fill up reusable bottles. They get a Blue Community sticker for their window. So many adult are resistant to change – yet older people may need to be reminded that single-use water bottles only became widespread in the 90’s. Before that, we used cups and water fountains in daily life. Plastic pollution is just one reason why bottle water should be save for places that need it – like Flint. Unfair water extraction, the carbon emissions behind the transport, manufacture of single use bottles & more. We have gathered some information here if anyone is interested. https://www.northamptonbluewater.org/

  12. Carl Stewart says:

    Claudia is one more reason that my hope for the future lies with people under the age of 21. And, after reading the many comments, some of which clearly should have been consigned to the cutting room floor, I have only one additional fact to add to the discussion: It has been calculated that at the current rate of disposal of plastic…mainly small plastic containers of the type being banned by Great Barrington…the weight of plastic in the world’s oceans will exceed the weight of animal life in those oceans by the year 2050. If that doesn’t frighten you, I guess you should favor building up the world’s arsenals.

  13. Susan Pettee says:

    Recycling is having problems because China is refusing to accept our trash. Still, our federal, state, and local governments could do much better at supporting recycling of plastics, so that manufacturers can have easy access to recycled plastics, thus reducing demand for petrochemicals and lessening the waste that is accumulating all over the world, including in the ocean. This should not be a liberal vs. conservative issue; we all live on the same planet. Great Barrington unfortunately has a lousy recycling program compared to, e.g., Wolfeboro, NH, a (very politically conservative) town I used to know well that is about Great Barrington’s size. Wolfeboro has a solid waste disposal center where residents sort their different types of plastic, including bottle caps and toys, into different bins. Likewise, glass is sorted by color; paper and cans are sorted by type; and there are special places for light bulbs and batteries, as well as a swap shop for unwanted but usable things. There is a space for large metal items, too. Upgrading our town’s recycling is not a project I want to take on personally, but I think it is something we should consider, since inadequate recycling is a large part of the reason for the water bottle ban.

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