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Arlington Town Meeting will vote on a water bottle ban pushed by high school students

Posted by Brock Parker  February 12, 2013 03:41 PM

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Every year at Arlington High School, students in an environmental club talk to freshmen about the negative impacts of plastic water bottles and give a taste test to see whether the kids prefer bottled water or tap water.

“Nine out of 10 of the students prefer the tap water,” said Sonia Zacher, a senior at the high school in the Students Against Violating the Environment club, which is known as SAVE.

Now Zacher and a couple of her classmates, Amy Currul and Marina Milan, are going to put water bottles to the test throughout the town.

Inspired by the town of Concord, the students will ask Arlington’s Town Meeting members in April to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles in the town.

The students collected 108 signatures to place an article on the Special Town Meeting Warrant for April 24, and are hoping the town will pass a ban similar to the one that took effect in Concord at the start of this year.

Currul, the president of the SAVE club and a senior at the high school, said the students think the ban could pass in Arlington and that it would be good for the environment. But they did encounter some opposition while they were gathering their signatures, and Currul said the students suspect there could be some backlash from the business community.

“We’ve seen some of the arguments that were made against Concord and some of the things that Concord had to go through to get it passed,” Currul said. “I think that really helps that we’re not the first ones to do it."

Concord residents voted last April to ban the sale of single-serving water bottles despite objections that the ban represents an attack on personal freedom and could embroil the town in costly litigation. Concord’s ban was the first of its kind in the nation, and it took effect on Jan. 1.

Arlington is no stranger to bans either. Last spring Town Meeting voted to ban the use of leaf blowers on private property from May 15 to Oct. 15 of each year. Opposition to that ban led to a special town election in which a strong majority of people cast votes to overturn the bylaw in July, but opponents fell just shy of the number of votes needed to overturn Town Meeting’s decision. A proposal that could ease the leaf blower ban will appear on the same Special Town Meeting warrant in April.

Zacher said the water bottle ban proposed for Arlington uses much of the language of the Concord ban.

The Arlington ban would prohibit the sale of non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate bottles of one liter or less, except in the event of an emergency.

Peter Zheng, the owner of 7 Star Grocery on Medford Street in Arlington said he would not be in favor of a ban because it could hurt his business. Zheng said many people come into his store in the summer just to get a bottle of water, an not many people will buy the larger bottles.

Zhen said water is also a popular choice of people trying to be healthy, but a ban could change that.

“If they were forced, people would drink soda instead of water,” he said.

Milan, a 17-year-old senior at the high school, said that she does not think that people who try not to drink much soda would drink more if the water bottle ban was passed. She said the students are advocating for people to carry their own reusable bottles to fill with tap water.

“I really hope that it doesn’t promote drinking soda,” she said.

Zacher said banning the water bottles would help eliminate them from collecting in landfills and taking centuries to decompose. She said the negative impact the plastic bottles have on the environment outweigh the profits made from selling the bottles.

Zacher said she and her co-sponsors are not Town Meeting members, but will be reaching out to elected members in the upcoming weeks. The students will also be making a presentation about water bottles at the Special Town Meeting in the spring.

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