As of January 1, 2013, a business or person caught selling a single-serving, plastic water bottle in Concord, Massachusetts will receive a warning on the first offense, a $25 fine on the second offense, and a $50 fine for any further violations.
Concord has become the first American town to outlaw polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles of one liter or less, reported EarthTechling.com.
In December, the University of Vermont (UVM) in Burlington became the first public college to restrict the sale of bottled water, reported the Associated Press. Twenty-two private campuses have already implemented bans.
Three years ago, Concord resident and activist Jean Hill, 84, started the movement to stop the sale of plastic water bottles. She began by campaigning to neighbors and politicians about the environmental consequences of disposable plastic bottles. In April 2012, the town of 18,000 citizen voted 403-364 to approve the proposed ban, and the state's attorney general recently signed the bill into law.
The bottled water prohibition is mostly intended to raise awareness about their wasteful nature and environmental destruction. In 2011, U.S. bottled water sales hit 9.1 billion gallons total, or 29.2 gallons of bottled water per person, according to sales figures from Beverage Marketing Corp.
Non-recycled plastic bottles clog landfills or go to incinerators, where their petroleum and natural gas derivatives are not used. More than 80 percent of plastic water bottles end up in the country’s landfills, reported National Geographic. When plastic bottles are incinerated, toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals are released into the atmosphere.
Health risks are also associated with excessive drinking from plastic water bottles. Repeated use of PET water bottles has been proven to increase harmful bacteria levels. Even if the bottle is washed between uses, the person is exposed to other chemicals. Recurrent hot-water washing and handling of PET water bottles can potentially wear down the plastic, leaching toxic compounds into the beverage inside it. One study found bottled water stored for 10 weeks was tainted by hormone-disrupting phthalates.
While environmentalists are cheering, Concord's ban has garnered some backlash from local businesses, and of course from the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA).
“This ban deprives residents of the option to choose their choice of beverage and visitors, who come to this birthplace of American independence, a basic freedom gifted to them by the actions in this town more than 200 years ago,” the IBWA said in a statement in September. “It will also deprive the town of needed tax revenue and harm local businesses that rely on bottled water sales.”