This year, Concord Massachusetts became the first U.S. city to completely boot the bottle. After three years of lobbying and educating officials and communities in Concord, Mass., The idea to curtail the harmful effects of disposable plastic water bottles finally became a reality. The effort was led by 82-year-old activist Jean Hill, who asserted that “bottled water companies are draining our aquifers and selling [them] back to us… I’m going to work until I drop on this.”
Now, stores in Concord are fined up to $50 for carrying plastic water bottles. Because the fines aren’t extreme, the ban isn’t expected to be 100% effective. No swat team is going to storm in and collect a fine on the convenience store that happens to have a few plastic water bottles on its shelves. However, environmentalists hope that these fines will discourage the sale of said bottles in the same way that plastic grocery bag taxes have been effective in reducing distribution and consequently, production.
Of course we’ve all heard that plastic water bottles are a nuisance to the environment, but is it really that big of a deal that we should focus so much time and energy to strip them from the shelves of every corner store and supermarket? Here are some simple statistics that might help put the bottle crisis into perspective for you:
- The US alone consumes 1,500 plastic water bottles every second.
- Of the 50 billion bottles bought yearly, about 80% of them end up in the landfill despite the presence of recycling programs. That means that the plastic bottles release harmful chemicals such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals for centuries as they slowly decompose.
- About 17 million barrels of oil are used in bottled water production yearly, which is enough to power 1 million cars for an entire year.
- Plastic also leeches toxins into the drinking water that it holds. These toxins have been linked to reproductive issues as well as cancer.
- Transporting bottled water to the U.S. from all around the world releases thousands of tons of transportation-related pollution into the atmosphere every year.
- In New York City, the most densely populated metropolitan area of the entire U.S., tap water surpasses all federal and state health standards.
Many universities in the U.S. have already banned plastic water bottles within their campuses, and tend to be more competitive than most institutions when it comes to achieving high sustainability rankings. What worries some Concord residents is the depressing reality that some water bottle patrons will see that their product is missing from the shelves and simply choose to buy a less-healthy option like soda or energy drinks. Although the solution is not completely comprehensive, it is a powerful step in the right direction toward the preservation of our natural resources. As the great Concord-born philosopher Henry David Thoreau once put it, “We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.”