To the editor:

A proposed townwide ban on the sale of bottled water in plastic containers of one liter or less in the Town of Rockport is a misguided attempt at helping the environment. In fact, such a sales ban will instead increase the amount of waste generated by beverage consumers. Here’s why.

Removing bottled water packaged in 100 percent recyclable PET plastic will force residents and visitors to Rockport to purchase other less healthy beverage products that have a much bigger environmental footprint.

Research shows that when bottled water is not available, people will choose a less healthy packaged beverage. Because Rockport’s proposed sales ban doesn’t cover flavored and sweetened beverages or soda, teas and juices, consumers are more likely to purchase one of those products. The problem is, nearly all of the flavored and sweetened beverages are also packaged in plastic and their plastic containers weigh on average 141 percent more than bottled water (9.89 grams vs. 23.9 grams for 16.9-ounce containers). Soft drinks and other sugary beverage containers weigh more because the plastic needs to be thicker due to the carbonation and/or bottling processes of those products. Forcing people to consume other packaged (and less healthy) drinks would generate more PET plastic.

Bottled water packaged in plastic, and properly recycled, is the most environmentally friendly option, compared to other drink choices and packaging options. PET plastic is 100 percent recyclable and is the most commonly recognized and recycled plastic in the world. PET plastic can be easily recycled over and over again, and recycled PET (rPET) is a valuable resource that is in high demand.

Bottled water containers are also not a health threat to the citizens of Rockport, as the proposed ban’s language suggests. As with all food packaging materials, bottled water containers must be made from food contact substances approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means the plastic and glass containers used for bottled water products have undergone FDA scrutiny prior to being available for use in the marketplace. FDA has determined that containers used by the bottled water industry are safe for use with food and beverage products — including bottled water — and they do not pose a health risk to consumers. For more than 30 years, the PET plastic that is used in many beverage containers, including soft drinks, juices, beer, and wine, has been approved as safe for food and beverage contact by FDA

When the safety and quality of public drinking water are compromised, people rely on bottled water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency specifically recommends that store-bought bottled water be part of peoples’ emergency supplies; at least one gallon per person, per day for three days. Storing bottled water is a safe, convenient way to ensure that you have an adequate supply of water on hand.

Bottled water is always there when it is needed. However, the efforts of the bottled water industry to provide crucial drinking water to citizens afflicted by natural disasters and other emergency situations are contingent on an ongoing viable commercial market. This provides bottled water companies with the infrastructure and capital resources to respond immediately when needed. The bottled water industry cannot exist only for disaster response as some industry critics have advocated. The importance and value of these efforts are often only fully understood when people need bottled water the most. To discourage the use of bottled water, or make false statements about the safety of bottled water, does a disservice to consumers who rely on bottled water to provide much-needed safe drinking water in the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and tap water boil alerts or contamination.

As people become increasingly aware of and motivated to reduce the impact plastic has on our environment, we should promote policies that help educate consumers on how to properly manage recyclable plastic to minimize its environmental impact. People can do this by:

Becoming mindful of the difference between non-recyclable and recyclable plastic.

Shop wisely and purchase products packaged in recyclable packaging.

Always recycle product packaging –whether at home or on the go.

Encourage others to always recycle.

Nearly all Americans (93 percent) say bottled water should be available wherever other drinks are sold, with 89 percent saying they drink bottled water while they travel, 82 percent of employed Americans drink it at work, and 75 percent of all people drink it at home. Just 16 percent of those surveyed said they drink only bottled water.

It is very important for people to drink water, whether from the tap, filtered, or bottled. Residents and visitors to Rockport expect to be able to conveniently hydrate with zero calorie and additive-free bottled water because it is a healthy alternative to carbonated soft drinks and other sugary beverages. This is particularly important as our nation faces increasingly high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Bottled water is the No. 1 packaged beverage product in the United States (by volume) for the third year in a row. Consumers choose bottled water because it is a safe, healthy, and convenient product that tastes great and helps them stay hydrated. Efforts to ban or restrict the sale of bottled water are not in the public interest.

Steve Keim

General Manager

Berkshire Springs

Southfield 

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