Jean Hill, an 84-year-old Concord, Mass., grandmother of six, is at it again — trying to ban sales of single-serve plastic water bottles.
According to the Boston Herald, Concord residents will vote at an April 25 town meeting on a bylaw that would ban sales of bottled water in sizes of 1 liter or less, except in an emergency.
Concord is a historic town — site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War. If the bylaw passes, it apparently will be the first of its kind in the U.S.
This isn't Hill's first attempt to ban single-serve water bottles. Last year the town narrowly defeated her measure by a 272-265 vote.
“I'm coming back next year. I'm 83 and I'm tough. I don't give up,” Hill said at the time.
While local retailers are worried that they'll lose business to competitors in nearby towns, Hill says they have nothing to worry about.
“If the ban did pass — and I'm quite optimistic that it will — I believe that any loss of revenue would be ... more than made up if they sell Thermos bottles, refillable bottles,” she told the Herald.
I'm not a big user of single-serve water bottles. I prefer tap water, at home and at work. And I acknowledge that the recycling rate for these containers is way too low. Plastics News has editorially supported bottle-deposit legislation for years.
That said, I think there's something wrong with allowing voters to decide which legal, safe and convenient products stores can sell.
If Hill wants to discourage residents from buying single-serve bottled water, I've got no problem with that. But making it illegal doesn't mesh with the concepts of freedom and liberty that are synonymous with the name Concord.
On the subject of crusaders against plastics, you can add actress Kyra Sedgwick to the list of celebrities who are speaking out against single-use plastics.
Last month the star of TV's The Closer moderated a discussion on the topic “A Global Call to End Plastic Pollution” at the United Nations in New York.
Like Concord's Hill, Sedgwick isn't stopping at urging her fans to avoid plastic.
“I have done my best to alter my lifestyle to help solve this problem, avoiding plastic whenever possible, and spread the word about its damaging effects. But I can only do so much. This is where the government must step in,” she said.
Sedgwick laments the plastics recycling rate — “at best around 30 percent” in developed countries like the U.S.
Unfortunately she's giving U.S. consumers and industry way too much credit. The recycling rate for PET bottles is around 30 percent — which is far too low for a commodity material with a well-established market.
The recycling rate for many other single-use plastics is far lower.
If the rate were higher, it would mean a great deal to the industry's image, and to reducing problems like marine litter.
Would that be enough to get people like Sedgwick and Hill to focus on other problems? Maybe not. But it's worth trying.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”