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Litterbugs and Concord

January 8, 2013 - Rob Weaver
A ban on the sale of bottled water began New Year's Day in Concord, Mass. Yes, the same Concord where military engagements in the Revolutionary War began apparently has fired the first shot in the battle against plastic bottles.

This could provide an interesting experiment in social engineering. On one hand, plastic drink bottles have been a growing share of the stuff Americans throw away. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the issue may be required; a ban on the sale of bottled water might not be the solution.

For example, the International Bottled Water Association (are you really surprised there is such a group?) claims “since the year 2000, 73 percent of the growth in bottled water sales came from people switching from sugary drinks (soda, juices, and milk) to bottled water.”

Ergo, a ban on sales of bottled water might prompt a switch to containers of less-healthy liquids.

“Evidence of this ‘shift in consumption’ is only recently emerging,” Chris Hogan, the association's vice president of communications, stated in a release. “Data from FRC Research Corporation shows when bottled water isn't available, 63 percent of consumers say they would choose a sweetened beverage instead.”

Of course, part of the problem might be the taste, or perceived quality, of tap water. Otherwise, it would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to fill up reusable bottles at home.

So the residents of Concord could provide a test of the effectiveness of a ban on plastic water bottles. Alas, we might not find out, at least not just yet. A repeal effort already is under way in Concord, and the ban could be lifted by a town-hall type vote April 22.

 
 

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