Plastic Bottle Ban

Bottled water fills half an aisle in Stop & Shop.

Sandwich voters have probably not heard the last about a ban on the commercial sale of single-use plastic water bottles in town.

Volunteers of an environmentally sustainable nonprofit said they will likely continue their fight to ban the sale of the bottles after Sandwich voters overturned the ban last week at Town Meeting.

Sustainable Practices, a Barnstable County-focused environmental action group, first proposed the bottle ban in town at a Special Town Meeting held in November 2020. The proposal was defeated at the meeting.

Sustainable Practices petitioned for the ban a second time at Town Meeting in May. The ban passed narrowly.

A group opposed to the plastic bottle prohibition was able to convince voters to overturn the ban at last week’s Special Town Meeting.

“Over the last two months, we were set to go if the petition was turned down,” town manager George H. (Bud) Dunham said. “We had packets printed and ready to be distributed to residents notifying them of the ban.” The ban was to go into effect on December 31.

Mr. Dunham said it is rare to have votes overturned by petition. He did not remember one ever happening during all his years as town manager.

Of the 15 Cape towns, Sandwich would have been the 11th to ban the commercial sale of single-use plastic water bottles, said Mary T. Cote, spokeswoman for and treasurer of Sustainable Practices.

“We are obviously very disappointed,” she said in response to the repeal. “I can’t believe Sandwich would take such a step back on an environmental issue.”

Residents at Town Meeting voted 169 to 131 to overturn the ban.

At the meeting, Ms. Cote spoke to the 324 voters in attendance, the finance committee and the board of selectmen, saying she was both sad and disappointed to see anyone put money or convenience over human and environmental health.

“A lot of people were saying ‘I recycle’ and ‘I don’t litter’ but it’s not about that,” she said. “It’s about plastic and reducing plastic and the environmental impact plastic has. People don’t seem to realize that and they have more of an ‘all about me’ attitude instead of thinking about the bigger picture.”

But those arguing to overturn the ban said single-use water bottles are more accessible, affordable and easier to use for the elderly and the disabled and that banning the commercial sale of them could hurt local businesses. Even the town’s commission on disabilities backed the repeal.

Asked for comment on the prospect of the ban coming forward again, Kathleen K. Barrett of Popple Bottom Road, the woman who filed the petition that overturned the ban, said the group has every right to try again. “And we have every right to fight it again,” she said.

Sustainable Practices plans to regroup in early January to discuss its plan for the upcoming year. Ms. Cote said it is likely the organization will bring another petition forward again asking voters to support a ban.

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