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Resist effort to repeal plastic water bottle ban

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By Thursday, Jul 12, 2018 Letters 12

To the Editor:

Come to Great Barrington’s special town meeting Monday, Aug. 6, and vote NO on the motion to rescind the plastic bottle bylaw that was passed at the annual town meeting in May.

Opponents of that bylaw would prefer a redemption fee on plastic water bottles. However, an expanded bottle-redemption fee (which would have added water bottles to the list of redeemable carbonated drinks) was rejected by Massachusetts voters as recently as 2014.

But more to the point, take a quick look into any transfer station recycling bin. It’s clear that most people would rather take the feel-good action of tossing redeemables there than take them to a store for nickels. So, our 5-cent redemption fee isn’t high enough.

What redemption fee would incentivize redeeming? In Sweden, the deposit rates are 11 cents for small plastic bottles, 22 cents for large. Finland has a three-tier system: 12 cents (less than a half-liter), 24 cents and 48 cents (greater than 1 liter). I don’t think that anything less than 50 cents will motivate redeeming in the Berkshires. As in the U.S., bottling companies in Scandinavia funded the fight to resist redemption fees. We saw their propaganda and we fell for it: “Bottled water is healthier” (Remember “More doctors smoke Camels”?).

But here’s the clincher: Recycling is the not the answer, whether bottles are put into the recycling bin or redeemed. See recent articles about plastics in Scientific American and National Geographic (both can be Googled). Recycling wasn’t cost-effective even before China started refusing our plastic. U.S. oil subsidies make it cheaper to make fresh, new plastic from petrochemicals than to recycle used plastic.

Now ask yourself, “Recycled into what?” If all plastic recycling were closed-loop (if all “new” plastic products were made from used plastic, so that NO new plastics were ever produced), there might be hope in a few decades. Meanwhile, products now made from recycled plastic (fleece, polyester, carpeting, those hard rings that hold six-packs together) can’t be recycled again. They are still plastic and will reach landfills or incineration eventually.

Yes, we love Berkshire Mountain Spring Water. They are one of us. Fortunately, BMS’ business model already includes environmentally friendly models: They sell (and rent) their water bubblers and beautiful ceramic dispensers, and they also provide filtered water dispensers — super ideas!

We urgently need consumer pressure on bottling companies to challenge the unsustainable practice of producing new plastic bottles. (How about aluminum bottles with screw tops, like those Bud beer bottles?)

How do we create that pressure? Do we ask folks to voluntarily stop buying things in single-use plastic containers? What’s your best guess as to the result? Other solutions (better education about recycling, better labeling of recycle bins in GB) lead only to continued reliance on recycling.

Only legislation can stop the damage that’s happening daily to our planet. Great Barrington will be the leader in Berkshire County, and a leader in Massachusetts, which is already a leader in the country. Please come to the special town meeting Monday, Aug. 6, and vote “no” on the motion to rescind the bottle bylaw that was passed at our annual town meeting in May. This bylaw eliminates the sale of PET plastic water bottles 1 liter and smaller and, with your continued support, it will take effect May 1, 2019.

Marj Wexler

The writer is a member of the environment committee of the Berkshire Women’s Action Group, which successfully petitioned to get the plastic water bottle ban on the warrant for this year’s Great Barrington annual town meeting.

12 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Steve Farina says:

    If you are even allowed in the room, you should have to sit in the corner with all the other NON-RESIDENTS of GB…you make it sound like you have a vote, or a voice in OUR town decisions.
    It is nice that you have an opinion on this, but it is not your town!
    And, don’t put words in my mouth by stating what I stand for as an opponent of the plastic 1 liter water bottle ban in Great Barrington.

  2. J.W. Clark says:

    Why do some in GB think it always has to be “different”. I see no value in this and the non-residents should stay a home wherever that may be.

    1. Tom Blauvelt says:

      Great Barrington has always been a leader in South County. We took the lead in banning smoking in public places. We took the lead in banning plastic shopping bags from supermarkets and now we have an opportunity to ban PET plastic water bottles under 1 liter. We need to start reducing our plastic waste and it might has well begin in Great Barrington. I encourage everyone to attend the special town meeting and please vote no on the motion to rescind the ban.

  3. Cynthia LaPier says:

    Like thousands of non-GB-residents from South County (I live in Sheffield), and neighboring NY and CT towns, I do the major part of my spending, socializing, and community participation in Great Barrington. It is where I buy groceries, do my banking, fix my car, eat out, go to movies, and have supported countless businesses over the last 25 years. I love GB and care very much about it. Non-residents are not voters, but we are active participants along with residents in creating the success and vibrancy that Great Barrington is known for. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion about what happens in one’s community even without a vote. It is disheartening to read the previous two commenters’ rather xenophobic comments.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      It is not an issue that is up for a South County vote. This is a Great Barrington issue, being voted upon by registered voters in GB. To write a LTE that states it is one’s own town meeting, when it clearly is not, is misleading and misguided.
      And, by the way, I appreciate all opinions on the matter, though I do not really care how people from other towns might vote if they lived here, unless they happen to own a business directly impacted by the forced product removal.
      It is not xenophobia (as you call it) it is a Great Barrington bylaw issue.

      1. J.W. Clark says:

        Hear, hear.

      2. Cynthia LaPier says:

        Hi Steve, I’ve not claimed it is an issue for a “South County vote.” And Ms. Wexler clearly identifies herself as a non-resident member of a county wide action group that is championing an environmental cause. What I did say is that even without the right to vote in GB, thousands of people count it their “community” and have opinions (whether you care about this fact or not) about the creation of laws that impact their dealings in town. Armed with only opinions and no vote, some non-residents in favor of the bylaw have perhaps changed some minds, but honestly, everyone who comes to a special town meeting for a recall vote on a controversial new bylaw is coming with a fairly firm idea of how they will vote. After some more debate, Great Barrington residents will vote and “our community” will move forward.

      3. Steve Farina says:

        Good morning Cynthia, regardless of the outcome of Great Barrington’s STM, I do hope we can move on. 8 years after the discussion started in Concord, and now 5 years after it passed, that Town is STILL divided on the issue. Their “1st step” has led to very few watering stations being added around the town. In fact the article you previously sent my way shows they just added one this year to an athletic field that has had ubiquitous use of these water bottles even after the ban.
        Since the bottle ban, Concord had added the plastic bag ban, but there is really no other “next step” (ban). There has been essentially NO positive impact on the environment 5 years down the road, and many people have – as you stated- already made up their minds on the vote based upon emotions and in spite of the facts. THAT is unfortunate.

      4. Steve Farina says:

        I realixe my wording was a little ambiguous. Concord added 4 watering stations this past year (using a combo of private and taxpayer money), one of which was at the athletic field I mentioned.

  4. Carl Stewart says:

    The reason for the angry comments regarding the “intrusion” of Egremonters and Sheffieldites in what has been termed a strictly Great Barrington issue is not difficult to discern. The proposed bylaw passed by a significant majority at Town Meeting and it is most unlikely that the dissident minority will prevail in undoing the ban at the upcoming Special Town Meeting unless there is a very small turnout at that meeting. It has been shown multiple times over the years in local politics that unpopular issues (and candidates) may prevail when the voters stay away from the figurative voting booth. The hope of the naysayers to what is clearly a progressive and sound approach to the increasing problem of plastics fouling our environment is to have the citizens of Great Barrington avoid the Special Meeting in the hope that the opponents of the ban will come out in force. For this reason, it is essential that those in favor of the ban appear at Special Town Meeting to reaffirm their support of the law. This is not to say that the law is without negative consequences. Some small merchants will probably be adversely affected by the ban and there are ways of dealing with this, e.g., phasing in the ban over a period of years for merchants who have sales of under $________/year. Creative tinkering with the law makes much more sense than reversing it

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Of course, when faced with facts, you would call my responses angry. Have you seen the documentary, “Divide in Concord”? It is available on Amazon Prime. It is well done and presents both sides of the issue (of course that means there are things both sides can point to as positives, and negatives). One of my favorite scenes is when the “door knocking” Jean Hill (BWAG’s inspiration ) knocks on a door and asks someone to sign a petition. They politely tell her they don’t believe in what she is doing, so she walks away – on camera- and calls them an A**HOLE.
      No Carl, I am not angry. I am, however, growing frustrated by the number of people unwilling to recognize the facts of the issue – the issue of this 1L water bottle ban, who instead choose to embrace the “feel good” idea that it might make a difference in our plastic use as a society.
      MY town, the town that I have chosen to live in and pay taxes in, has this issue before it. We have the opportunity, among other things within this issue, to decide if we want to be like Concord and remain DIVIDED over this 1L water bottle ban for years to come – while addressing less than a fraction of a precent of the overall plastic problem – or if WE want to decide to UNITE to actually address the entirety of the use of plastics in our society.
      I hope we have a HUGE turnout at the STM so this can be somewhat hashed out and so we don’t have less than 300 people making the decision that affects the thousands of residents, businesses, and the many 2nd homeowners and tourists that our local economy relies on.
      And, I hope we can set our emotions aside and work together to find real, practical solutions.

  5. Barbara Barak says:

    After all the discussion on the Edge, I researched the toxic effect of P.E.T.in plastic. There are endless articles on the web about the negative effect on both health and the environment.

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