Plastic Bottle Ban

Bottled water fills half an aisle in Stop & Shop.

Sandwich voters at Saturday’s Town Meeting will be asked to support a petition article that seeks to ban the sale of water in single-use plastic bottles here in town.

In advance of the meeting, we received an email from the chairman and CEO of a global beverage consultancy, opposing (not surprisingly) the ban. One of the points he made in his email was that these water bottles are 100 percent recyclable, including the cap.

This seems like a good thing on the surface. But consider this: the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 75 percent of plastics end up in landfills, 15 percent are incinerated and only about 10 percent are recycled.

A recent study published in Science Advances estimates that production of plastic in the United States increased 26 percent from 2010 to 2016. And a lot of it ends up in the environment due to illegal dumping, improper disposal and, of course, littering. The study, which was co-authored by Kara Lavender Law, a researcher at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, concludes that the United States is the lead contributor to plastics in the world’s oceans.

Recycling would appear to be helpful, but there is a big question of what happens downstream in the recycling process. The Science Advances study concluded that in 2016 half of the recycled waste was exported—almost 90 percent to countries with inadequate waste management—and a lot of it ends up in the oceans.

The bottom line is that plastics are problematic in the waste stream, and one of the solutions is to somehow break our “habit” of using products that are delivered in plastic containers, like these water bottles.

We will be voting for the ban at Town Meeting.

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