The next-to-last article on the May 3 Town Meeting warrant is a citizens petition seeking to ban the sale of single-use, personal-sized plastic bottles of water.
The proposal, which was narrowly defeated at a Special Town Meeting last November, would curtail the sales and distribution of all plastic bottles in town that contain less than a gallon of non-carbonated, unflavored drinking water, according to the petition refiled this year by a Brewster-based environmental group.
The group, Sustainable Practices, began a successful Cape-wide quest three years ago to ban the use and sale of single-use plastic bottles on municipal property.
Sandwich residents approved the municipal ban in 2019.
This year’s petition recommends the imposition of fines for retail stores and other business establishments that do not comply with the sales ban.
A first violation would result in a warning; second violation would incur a fine of $150; and third and subsequent violations would result in a fine of $300 each.
The ban would go into effect December 31, the petition specifies.
“Single-use plastic bottles impact environmental health, and the health and longevity of other species who may ingest plastic as food,” the petition says. “Ultimately, plastic re-enters the human food chain with the adverse consequences both known and emerging. Plastics pollute and impact our environment across their life cycle from production to use to disposal.”
Mary Cote, the Sandwich spokeswoman for Sustainable Practices, has said municipalities in Massachusetts and around the world have enacted sales bans on single-use plastic bottles. She said that includes seven towns on Cape Cod, including Falmouth.
As to why the petition is being pushed again when it did not pass last year, she said that she thinks that Sandwich residents have more evidence this year than last that doing something to mitigate climate change is needed. She said that the manufacturing of plastics requires the use of fossil fuels, which is contributing to climate change.
She said that houses falling into the ocean and the boardwalk requiring replacement are the result of climate change.
“This is just a simple solution for us to take,” she said.
Additionally, she feels that voters were not ready for such a ban last year and may have felt that not being able to buy a plastic water bottle might scare tourists away from the Cape.
Ms. Cote said that she feels it will have the opposite effect and will brand the region as an eco tourism spot.
For local merchants who are worried about how the ban might impact their businesses, she suggested that they could instead sell stainless steel water bottles with their brand imprinted on them and then fill them for customers at no additional cost.
Businesses could even add themselves to Tap, an online service that connects people with locations where reusable bottles can be filled. Seafood Sam’s is already on the app.
The app can be found at findtap.com.
Ms. Cote was one of several speakers who last year passionately presented their argument that banning the commercial sale of bottled water is a first step in battling the glut of plastic that is polluting oceans and killing wildlife.
“Over 1,500 single-use plastic water bottles are used and discarded in the US per second,” this year’s petition says. “Elimination of the use of single-use plastic water bottles will have a significant impact on future plastic-bound pollution including the nation’s greenhouse gas footprint and is consistent with protection of the natural environment in Sandwich, Barnstable County, our nation and our earth, which we have a common responsibility to protect and steward.”