A group of high school students is trying again to get Lincoln to ban the sale of single-serve plastic water bottles and retail distribution of plastic grocery bags—but one of last year’s bottle-ban opponents has advanced his own ballot measure that goes even farther.
Students in Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School’s Environmental Club have submitted two citizen’s petitions for the Annual Town Meeting on March 24. One measure seeks to ban single-use plastic check-out bags at supermarkets and other retail stores. The other would prohibit retail sale of bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less containing non-carbonated, unflavored drinking water. Bottles could still be given away at any time or distributed in the event of a town-wide water emergency.
The petitions are identical to last year’s, which the students withdrew after some residents and officials urged more discussion. Instead, voters passed “sense of the town” motions that expressed support for the concerns raised by the students and urged them to “continue to explore options, including the contemplated bylaws, in consultation with key Lincoln stakeholder groups.”
The Environmental Club has advocated alternatives to plastic water bottles, such as water in aluminum cans or boxes similar to orange juice containers boxed water and water in aluminum containers, and pushed for more water fountains and hydration stations on public and private property for refilling reusable water bottles.
Lincoln resident Jim White, co-owner of the Trail’s End and Lincoln Kitchen restaurants, said he had a “positive conversation” with the Environmental Club and supports the students’ goals in trying to reduce harm caused by discarded bottles to the environment and human health. However, he still thinks the proposed restriction on sales of water bottles isn’t good policy. “What that does is puts the burden of compliance on essentially two businesses in town, and that’s unfair,” he said.
White has submitted his own citizen’s petition that goes even farther than the student measure—it would also prohibit anyone from bringing the same water bottles onto town-owned property, including schools, conservation land, recreational fields and public buildings.
“If Lincoln is going to make a statement, then let’s have everyone in Lincoln make a statement—let’s be a leader,” White said.
The L-S students had better luck last year in getting Sudbury voters to approve the restrictions on plastic grocery bags and water bottles. An October 2017 vote to repeal the measure water bottle was defeated. Both of Sudbury’s plastics rules goes into effect on July 1, 2018. Only Cambridge and Concord have approved similar sales bans in Massachusetts.
San Francisco has banned the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on city-owned property, including at large-scale outdoor events on public property, though sales are still permitted in stores. The city is installing more hydration stations on public property and now requires new buildings to have them.