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Plastic water bottle ban isn’t answer to plastic pollution

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By Sunday, May 5, 2019 Letters 16

To the editor:

On Monday night, May 6, the town of Great Barrington’s registered voters have an opportunity to reverse the ban on 1 litre or less PET water bottles. This ban is an issue that has divided the town for the past year. While I applaud the goal of reducing overall plastic usage throughout the world, this ban does essentially nothing to accomplish that. As water bottles make up only a fraction of a percent of the total plastic in the world, it has become clear to even the most ardent supporters of our little town’s ban that this is nothing more than a means to raise awareness of a global plastic problem.

The first thing to note in the division this ban has caused is that there is unity in the desire to not destroy the environment we live in. That is an important point. No one is saying we should destroy our planet and its eco-systems with plastic. What many of us are saying is this water bottle ban is not a viable answer. I have prepared a short precursor to my presentation for Monday night. It discusses the trade-offs with some of the alternatives. Armed with knowledge, it is incumbent upon each of us to employ the most environmentally friendly choice in every decision we make, given our circumstances at the moment.

I invite you to read through this document with an open mind and ponder the implications as we head into our annual town meeting. My intention is to expand my discussion and hopefully help you see why it is so important to vote yes on Article 28 and repeal the water-bottle ban.

Click here to read my statement.


Steve Farina

Great Barrington

16 Comments   Add Comment

  1. support the ban says:

    I have a hard time believing that this town’s ban is nothing more than a means to raise “awareness” of a global plastic problem as you put it! It’s more than that. China has severely limited what it takes and our landfills are running out of space. BWAG has set up filling stations to make it an easy transition. How difficult was it to bring your own bag once plastic bags were ban? I think you should think of trading convenience for responsibility.
    A couple of facts around bottled water-NRDC concluded that there is no assurance that bottled water is cleaner or safer than tap. In fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not.
    Chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. One study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic and in glass bottles containing phthalates, suggesting that the chemicals could be coming from the plastic cap or liner. Although there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap, there are no legal limits in bottled water; the bottled-water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals.
    And in terms of effecting tourism…give me a break. “People will no longer come to Great Barrington because of the inability to buy 1 litre or less plastic water bottles?” That’s absurd. If anything they will welcome the ability to fill their reusable water bottles with clean water.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Perhaps you might read the document again. I called “awareness” a general consensus (this is based upon many discussions I have personally had with supporters of the ban) and I attributed only one person directly, which can be seen at a public meeting and can be found on CTSB with a little research on your part. I am sorry you have a hard time believing it. It is true.

      Our landfills are filling up, and until we learn how to keep TRASH out of our recycle stream, they will continue to – the ban does nothing to address this. In fact, this ban does virtually nothing to address the environmental issue we have.

      You seem to imply that I suggest PET bottled water over all else. What I am saying is that there are trade-offs for every decision we make, regardless of media with which we choose to carry water – again, reread my document.

      Also, please do no misquote me, the quote is: “When a tourism economy stops meeting the needs and wants of the tourist, the tourists will go somewhere else!”. This has been proven time and again in many former tourist destination hot spots
      Finally, since you bring it up – 3 water filling stations is hardly making any kind of “easy transition”!
      The BWAG EC touted Washington University (in St. Louis) as banning these water bottles and seeing a 39% reduction in sugary drink sales. What they didn’t mention was some background info. First, the University retrofitted more than 100 water fountains, and installed a bunch of new ones on campus. Prior to arriving on campus, new students receive at least 2-3 publications highlighting the water bottle ban. At their freshman orientation they receive a free refillable bottle. So through education and encouragement, they have created an environment (albeit a relatively closed environment) where the students tend to choose refilling options when convenient.
      The university still sells or utilizes well over 800 cases of water each year, as they recognize that the refill option is not suitable for large gatherings such as commencement ceremonies. Additionally, their School of Medicine continues to sell bottled water in dining locations and vending machines due to concerns about limiting water access for medical patients.
      It would seem that for Great Barrington to have an impact and result like that, we would have to inform all potential residents, 2nd home owners, tourists, and visitors of any kind about the ban prior to their arrival -so they could decide if they still wanted to come, have ample water filling stations throughout the community, and allow exemptions for large events and for medical patients.
      Also not covered or discussed is how many students bring their own bottled water from home, or otherwise purchase off campus.

  2. George Grumbach says:

    If your repeal attempt tomorrow night does not succeed, will you move on to other issues?

  3. Tom Blauvelt says:

    Great Barrington has taken the lead on numerous social and environmental issues for South County and this is another area where we can set the example for others to follow. Please come to town meeting tomorrow night and vote No on the article to overturn the ban on single serve water bottles.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Tom, this ban accomplishes nothing to improve the environment and has successfully caused major division in our town. If that is your definition of leadership then we have a different understanding of what leadership is. I have provided many facts which no one who supports this ban has refuted, yet somehow you think continuing it is a worthwhile endeavor.

  4. Tom Blauvelt says:

    Hi Steve,
    Obviously I disagree with your point of view. As far as I know you are the only person creating a “division” in town. This issue was decided twice by the voters at previous meetings. Reducing plastic in any amount is progress and other towns and cities will eventually follow our lead. We need to start doing something and it might as well start in Great Barrington

    1. Steve Farina says:

      See you tonight Tom, I hope you come with an open mind.

      1. Tom Blauvelt says:

        Hi Steve,
        Minds are like a parachute, they work best when they are open. See you tonight.

      2. Steve Farina says:

        Unless you wait too long to open it.

  5. concerned says:

    And the eye sore is the Beer cans and mini liquor bottles! but they arn’t banned,Yet there they are every where you go……..

  6. John says:

    I would be impressed if the ban included virtually all small plastic bottles, and if there was a proposed legitimate solution. The ban as it is now is a mere feel good measure for a few individuals that are starving for attention.
    Do it right or don’t do it at all

    1. George Grumbach says:

      John, What have you done? I’ll bet you are a “don’t do it’s at all” person. If you have children and grandchildren, they will bear the brunt of all the “don’t do it at all” people who are unwilling to do anything at all.

      1. John says:

        No straws, no bottled water unless absolutely necessary, no nip bottles and no plastic keurig cups is what I have done to start with!!!
        When will people ever learn that government as a nanny, is not always the best solution.

  7. Tom Norton says:

    I am torn by this issue. On the one hand I totally agree with arguements regarding plastic pollution in both manufacturing and disposal and recycling. However does this ban do anything to address the issue besides place hardships on worthwhile organizations like the little league which sells water at the games, or another institution, the Guthrie Center, which provides water at its shows and is required by the health department to supply bottled water only for the patrons .
    On the recent Green Up Day in Housatonic my partner and I collected 12 bags of trash thrown from car windows in a1/4 mile stretch. Out of this, one half was gatorade bottles and plastic nips of fireball. There were only two plastic water bottles in the mix out of all of that. This ban will do nothing to address thay problem. Perhaps we should be banning the alcohol nip bottles insyead?

  8. Robbin Ezinga says:

    Steve, good work putting all these ideas together. I started out in favor of the ban — perhaps some of the specific claims seemed a bit dubious, I thought — but fewer plastic bottles still has to be a good thing, right! Even if it’s not all that some claim and others hope for, progress is still progress, and who wants to be AGAINST progress?

    Well, progress means “moving forward” and forward is just whatever direction we’re facing. We need to take a look around.

    For me, the most compelling reason to repeal this ban was learning of the negative impacts it is already having on some members of our community. What to many of us is merely convenient, easy, and clean, for others is quite simply to only options that is safe, possible, and accessible. Not knowing this is one thing. But what really astonished me was the absolute unwillingness of so many people to even listen. When I hear members of my community speaking about their own lives and lived experiences, and then watch others dismiss them with jokes, try to “correct” them, or flat-out ignore them, I know that I am not looking at the kind progress that’s going to take us where we need to go.

  9. Ellen Brewer says:

    Edgar Herwick of WGBH News Curiosity Desk took “A Look at Concord’s Plastic Water Bottle Ban Five Years In”
    He reports that “real, hard numbers about the ban’s impact five years in are hard to come by”. According to Erin Stevens, Concord’s public information officer, new fountains installed throughout Concord have doled out a thousand gallons of water about 4,000 small plastic bottles worth. But it is not clear that all that tap water was used en lieu of bottles.
    “We ask the people who are driving the recycling trucks, ‘What are you seeing,’ and they say ‘We’ve definitely seen a decrease,'” Stevens said. “But it’s hard to measure. So, I can’t say how many bottles we’ve saved, unfortunately.
    In spite of a lack of hard-core data Stevens believes the ban is making a difference – and can in other towns as well.
    All of this appears to support a public awareness component to the water bottle ban.
    If we really want to make a difference however maybe we need to go a lot further here in Great Barrington. West Tisbury, Ma, on Martha’s Vineyard, (also a tourist/vacation area) was the first in the nation to also ban single-serving plastic bottles of soda.

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