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A small ripple (effect) in sea of plastic pollution

Larry Slotnick, cochair of the Arlington Zero Waste Committee, submitted this opinion supporting Article 12 (single-use plastic containers) at Town Meeting.

Zero Waste Committee logo

When is enough, enough?

When only 9 percent of our blue-bin recycled plastic is actually made into new plastic products, and the rest is incinerated or land-filled?

When the marine food chain has become so contaminated with microplastics that researchers have found traces of plastic in human lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys? Arlington’s Zero Waste Committee is proposing we make a dent in the problem by regulating the sale of bottled water in Arlington in Article 12.

Forever

Single-use plastic containers, while convenient and ridiculously low-cost, are behind this out-of-control growth in toxic plastic pollution. They even give the word “disposable” a bad name, because, quite simply, plastics are FOREVER. Plastics can be burned and they can be buried. But they do not decompose. They are the solid waste equivalent of burning fuel oil, gasoline and natural gas.

Having surveyed the eight largest retailers selling bottled water in Arlington, and focusing on smaller containers of noncarbonated water sold in 24-count cases, the Zero Waste Committee has concluded that close to 750,000 12-ounce bottles of water are sold each year in Arlington. As these bottles are often consumed away from the home, and lack a Bottle Bill deposit fee, they infrequently find their way to a blue bin. Their estimated rate of recycling is 15%. This compares to a 75-percent rate for bottles with a deposit.

Zero Waste Committee members have met with close to 20 of the estimated 35 small retailers (take-out restaurants/cafes and grocery/convenience stores) that would be impacted by the proposed bylaw. Many argued for improved recycling infrastructure with an expanded Bottle Bill. They would suffer a loss of revenue if the article becomes a bylaw. But the article excludes both carbonated and flavored water.

'Arlington on Tap'

The committee also seeks to address residents’ concerns about lack of public drinking fountains and stations for refilling a reusable water bottle. We are proposing a campaign called “Arlington on Tap,” which will not only brag about the purity and flavor of Arlington’s tap water, but also call for a townwide effort to create many more public drinking water stations along the Mass. Ave. and Minuteman Bikeway corridors, not to mention restoring facilities in gathering places such as parks, playing fields and playgrounds.

With support from the Arlington Select Board and the Health Department, and local groups -- such as Sustainable Arlington, Mystic River Watershed Association, Mothers Out Front and Friends of Spy Pond Park -- the Zero Waste Committee seeks to begin our community’s “sea change” away from single-use plastics and toward a greater awareness of the plastic pollution crisis that we can’t recycle our way out of.

Please contact your precinct’s Town Meeting members here and voice your support for the passage of Article 12. A small ripple in Arlington can lead to a tidal wave of awareness and action.


This letter was published Thursday, April 14, 2022.

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Comments

Guest - Mark Kaepplein on Friday, 15 April 2022 20:16
I've had enough government mandates, thank you!

How about fixing the "only 9 percent of our blue-bin recycled plastic is actually made into new plastic products, and the rest is incinerated or land-filled" problem before mandating what people can and can't do? I've had enough mandates to last me a good long time, thanks.

How about fixing the [i]"only 9 percent of our blue-bin recycled plastic is actually made into new plastic products, and the rest is incinerated or land-filled"[/i] problem before mandating what people can and can't do? I've had enough mandates to last me a good long time, thanks.
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