Monday, May 16, 2011

Close vote in Concord--what about your town?

In a tight, and ultimately disappointing vote, Concord (Massachusetts) town meeting voted down a town-wide ban on single-serve, PET bottled water last month. The vote came a year after the 2010 town meeting passed a ban on bottled water, only to have it overturned by the state's Attorney General's office because it was not enforceable as written. The ban was introduced by town resident Jean Hill.

The 2010 version passed with little controversy. But even though this year's ban was more narrowly written to focus only on PET bottles of less than 1 liter, it attracted out-of-town opposition from the International Bottled Water Association, headquartered in Virginia. In the weeks before town meeting residents received mailings from the IBWA and "push poll" calls from individuals who were, according to reports, unwilling to identify the organization they were working for.

Proponents of the ban countered with letters to the editor from nearly a dozen residents, including members of AfD's North Bridge chapter. AfD'ers helped with get-out-the-vote and a public forum, and organizers from Corporate Accountability International and Food and Water Watch provided background info on the social and environmental costs of bottled water, as well as help with strategy.

Despite the loss, organizers intend to keep building on the educational work they've done and hope to get a larger group of residents together to work on a future ban. Concord voters did pass two related measures at town meeting, one asking the town to support a voluntary ban on bottled water, and another encouraging sustainability, and these steps could be foundations for more comprehensive action.

And, of course, Concord doesn't have copyright on the idea of banning bottled water. If your town would like to cut down on plastic waste and make a strong statement about protecting water resources from commodification, Concord organizers want to talk to you! Contact for more information.

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