South Portland councilor: City should ban plastic water bottles

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SOUTH PORTLAND — As the 5-cent fee on single-use shopping bags and a ban on polystyrene food containers nears the six-month mark, one city councilor is thinking about the city’s next step in eliminating excess waste: a ban on single-use plastic water bottles. 

“It seems to me if we’re moving in the direction of being sustainable, (banning plastic water bottles) seems like a logical next step,” Councilor Brad Fox said Monday. 

Fox said he intends to request a workshop to discuss the pros and cons of the proposal. And even if the city opts not to go in that direction, he said, “I think it’s at least something we need to talk about.”

Fox said he’s raising the issue because it aligns with the city’s 2014 Climate Action Plan, by not only mitigating excess waste, but also chipping away at the energy consumption used to make the bottles. 

In March, South Portland became the second city in the state to enact a nickel fee on single-use bags and a ban on polystyrene foam containers. The motivation was that plastic bags and foam cups and food containers are virtually non-biodegradable and damaging to the environment. 

While more cities and towns have taken similar steps, a relatively small number of municipalities across the country have banned the sale of bottled water.

San Francisco, for example, through a four-year phase-in process that began in 2014, has banned the sale or distribution of single-use water bottles on city-owned property and at city-sponsored functions. 

Smaller cities, like Concord, Massachusetts, which has about 17,000 residents, have blazed the trail with more comprehensive efforts to outlaw single-use plastic water bottles, which are mostly made of polyethylene teraphthalate.

In 2013, Concord became the first city in the country to ban all sales of single-use plastic water bottles

Passing the measure took three attempts and remains divisive, Concord Town Manager Chris Whelan said Tuesday. 

Whelan said the ban was driven by a concern about both the level of solid waste generated and the amount of energy it takes for water to be delivered to Concord from, for example, the Poland Springs bottling plant in Maine. 

Most places have “high-quality (tap) water available at a very low cost,” Whelan said, and outlawing plastic water bottles is one step toward sustainability.

However, some “drawbacks hit home with voters,” he said.

Because selling bottled water is very profitable, some retailers didn’t want to relinquish the revenue. Others criticized what they said is the arbitrary banning of just single-use plastic water bottles, and not bottled soda, juice or other drinks.

Mayor Tom Blake on Thursday said he suggested to Fox that a workshop should not be held until after the November general election, and because city staff is “overwhelmed” with work.

To put “something as substantial” as banning plastic water bottles “on the table now will make matters worse,” Blake said. 

Fox, however, said he plans to request a workshop sooner rather than later.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.
  • Chew H Bird

    Last time I checked, plastic beverage containers have a deposit fee and are recycled… While I agree much of Maine has very good tap water, banning water bottles that are predominantly recycled makes no sense to me. What about plastic milk jugs, soda and juice plastic bottles? Why stop there? How about we simply ban elected representatives who have an ego problem and personal agenda that they try to inflict on citizens at the expense of common sense and reality?

  • The Pope

    Bonjourno, it’s me again, The Pope. Does not this South Portland place already have enough bands? The Tar Sands Band, The Plastic Bag Band, The Pesticide Band and on and on. For where can this new band, The Plastic Water Bottle Band, practice for the gigs? All the spots are full up. And another thing, for where is the big blow out concert being done? I think so the best place would be the St. John’s Church parking lot, since there ain’t no cars there. Drop me a tweet with the date and me an Ex-Pope Benny will make the scene.
    The Pope
    Sampling some new wine for the next mass
    Vatican City

  • Deepcove

    The “Useful Idiots” who put this fool into office didn’t really think all this would stop at Oil/Plastic Bags/Pesticides did they?? Well did they??

    (For those who will take offense to my term above, please refer to Wikipedia):

    In political jargon, useful idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

  • beachmom2

    Go back to Kookifornia Brad. If you came here cuz you liked it so much why do keep trying to turn it inti Cali? Or is it just power you crave? Go back to ethics training before you continue to attempt being our Boss Hogg.

  • Matt Damon

    Why not ban the nursing home at the PD on Anthoine Street From 7am to 3pm there are 10 Retired on duty supervisors that are wasting tax payers money 1 of the Lieutenants can’t even enter city hall that’s a classic they’re only here because of the benefitsn nothing they receive and not to protect and serve like they’re supposed to from 3pm to 7am there’s only 1 Lieutenant that can make a decision and he’s at FBI School so for 3 months there’s no supervision Scary thought.