Plastic water bottle bans on Cape Cod: Are they worth it?

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Shaws in Harwich Port displays signs regarding the plastic water bottle ban (1/22/22)

Ashley Smith, Contributing Writer

So we all know about the recent plastic water bottle ban in several Cape Cod towns. Our school and many other businesses have resigned to selling canned and boxed water.

10 towns in total have voted to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles, including Harwich, Chatham and Dennis, following the recent bans of plastic bags and straws. This is a big step toward a more environmentally conscious community, but at the same time, it raises just about as many problems as it solves.

For one, it encourages the consumption of sugary, unhealthy drinks. If you go to get a snack from a gas station or grocery store and open the fridge door, seeing they have no water, you’ll likely reach for something sweet and sugary. Banning plastic bottles also leaves us with few alternatives, not all of which are much better.

We have canned and boxed water, which are both recyclable, as long as they don’t have a plastic lining (which many do). The problem is that if people weren’t recycling their plastic bottles, they aren’t necessarily going to take the time to recycle any other drink.  So in the end, they ultimately create the same amount of waste.

Another issue is that if people have unsafe drinking water at home, they rely on bottled water as a necessary replacement. Many communities on Cape Cod don’t have the luxury of safe tap water so they are forced to buy bottles. Without this option, many people are left grappling with what to do next.

There are also much bigger enemies to take down before we go after water. Soft drinks require a thicker plastic container due to the carbonation and account for roughly 4 times the amount of space in US landfills (plastic water bottles 3.3%, vs. carbonated drink containers 13.3%).

The ban also targets small businesses, as they are forced to sell alternative drinks that customers might not want.  This could cost them much needed revenue, especially in the summer months.  Cape Cod relies heavily on its small businesses and we’re ultimately just creating more obstacles for them to work around.

Abby Considine, a student at Monomoy, works at Dairy Queen, and says she and other employees had to adjust to the new policy. “It’s definitely been a shift, and even after months we still had to let the customers know about the ban.” Employees have been put in many difficult situations and businesses have and will continue to lose a small portion of revenue. 

So, banning single-use plastic water bottles may not be the best option, so what is? 

Well for one, I think there needs to be a stronger focus on promoting recycling. If people eat somewhere and don’t have the option to recycle any waste, then they’ll simply throw their recyclables in the garbage. Every place that has garbage cans should also be required to offer recycling bins right next to the cans. Making it easy is an important step in encouraging people to recycle.

There could also be a bigger push for education regarding recycling, global warming, and being more environmentally conscious. Many Cape Codders probably don’t even know about the effects of littering and even that their communities even offer recycling programs. 

Talia Tambolleo Perez, a student at Monomoy, speaks her opinion on the ban: “Plastic water bottles are definitely bad, and I like that we have the plastic water bottle ban, but is it doing much when there’s other plastic bottles at convenient stores? I do think it’s a good starting step for becoming more environmentally conscious on the Cape.” 

Overall, as others put it, the plastic bottle ban was a step in the right direction, but there are definitely other issues that could be tackled first.

Every one of us should be thinking about the footprint we leave on our planet because in the end, we only get one. So take some time to do research on what you can do for our environment.

To do your part in helping to better our environment, please visit https://www.mass.gov/topics/environmental-protection