The bottled water ban movement has been raging for quite a while. But until now it was mostly about governments and college campuses banning the use of bottled water within the confines of their own property. That is, until now.
In late April, Concord, Mass. (yes, that Concord, Mass.—the same one where a little thing called the American Revolution started) voted to ban the sale of single-serve PET bottled water in town. Only, not just in government offices, but anywhere within the borders of Concord. Yes, that includes any store in Concord. Stores that violate the ban could be fined up to $50 for every offense.
Could the anti-bottled water advocates finally have gone too far? I’d predict, yes.
As of this writing, it’s not clear if the new law will be overturned before it goes into effect in January 2013. The law now goes to the state’s attorney general for review. One article I read said it very well may be upheld.
Concord now joins only one other town in the entire world in banning all sales of single-serve PET water within its confines: Bundanoon, Australia. That suddenly famous Australian town passed its ban in July of 2009.
Upon hearing of Concord’s decision, I immediately started wondering if the townsfolk of one of the most important historical locations in the U.S.A. ever read their history?
If they did, they’d be familiar first and foremost with the dismal history of Prohibition. But this decision by Concord actually reminds me more of the tax hikes on cigarettes in the nineties, an effort to raise funds while curbing smoking. I was an editor of a different trade publication back then and watched this story unfold as the taxes had some unexpected results. Nearby Indian reservations, not subject to the tax hikes, kept their cigarette prices low and consumers began buying instead from them. They’d load the trunks of their cars up with cartons, drive home and be all set.
What do the citizens of Concord expect to happen? Don’t they see that their new “Warrant Article 32, the Drinking Water in Single-Serving PET Bottles Bylaw,” will only serve one purpose: to harm their local retailers who will undoubtedly lose business to the neighboring towns with no ban?
The bottled water category has been doing excellent business as of late. Just take a look at the State of the Industry 2012 report in this very issue you are holding. It grew at its fastest rate (4.1 percent) since 2007 last year, in the midst of a deep recession. Consumers love the convenience of it. And the industry is trying very hard to be as environmentally responsible as possible, dramatically reducing the amount of plastic in every bottle.
Concord went too far in passing this law and I predict it will eventually realize it. Hopefully, the shot heard ’round the world against the bottled water industry in Concord will be loud enough for other municipalities around the country to hear and take notice of before they too make the same mistake.