FAQ: Plastic Bottle Bylaw

Who is proposing this bylaw?

Plastic Free MV (PFMV) is a group of students at the West Tisbury School. We are working together to help reduce plastic waste in our community. Single-use plastics are having a profound impact on our environment and our health.

We are concerned for our future and see the need for change now. That’s why we created a bylaw to ban some types of disposable plastic bottles.

Why did we propose a ban on plastic bottles?

Plastic waste is everywhere today. Millions of tons flow into the oceans every year. Recycling is not a realistic solution to the problem.

Plastic pollution in the ocean is responsible for countless injuries and deaths of birds, fish, turtles, and marine mammals.

Chemicals used in plastics are also harmful to our health.

Making plastic uses fossil fuels, which contributes to climate change.

What exactly is being banned?

The short answer is the ban applies to plastic bottles of water and soda of 34 oz or less. The text of the bylaw spells this out in more detail: A) non-carbonated, unflavored water and B) “soft drinks” being any beverage containing carbonated water, a sweetener (including fruit juice) and/or a flavoring.

What are the alternatives?

We expect sales of reusable water bottles will rise. There are currently over 18 refill stations on the island, with more in the works. For a list, check out the MV Tap Map from VCS (see below).

Stores can still sell water and soda in any size bottle, can, or other package that is not made of plastic.

Plastic bottles larger than 34 oz can also still be sold, including for example 1.5 liter bottles and gallon jugs of water.


Who is affected by this bylaw?

Anyone who sells or distributes plastic water or soda bottles in the town. This includes restaurants, stores, taxis/Ubers, hotels, charter fishing vessels, caterers, tour buses, etc.


In which towns is this bylaw being proposed?

West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah will vote on this bylaw at 2019 Annual Town Meetings.

 What about the other 3 towns?

The ultimate goal is to adopt the same bylaw island-wide. We started in West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah because that is where we live and go to school, but there are plans in place to move this to the other three towns.

Have any other communities done something like this?

Yes. Concord, MA passed a bylaw banning disposable water bottles in 2012. Since then their neighbors — Lincoln and Sudbury — as well as the Western Mass town of Great Barrington have all passed similar bottle bans. In 2018, Nantucket passed a sweeping ban on most single-use plastics, which includes water bottles. There are nine towns on the Cape voting on their own version of a water bottle bylaw this spring.


No one else has included soda. We would be the first in the nation to take that step. When Concord was asked to reflect on what they might have done differently, it was to include soda. We are learning from their experience.

Is there an exemption for emergencies?

Yes. Bottled water of any size would be allowed in the event of an emergency.

How will the bylaw be enforced?

Either the Board of Health or other enforcing agent. This is decided by the Board of Selectmen.

 Couldn’t we just improve recycling instead?

No. Our efforts should not be limited to one approach or the other. We need to adopt this bylaw AND improve recycling. Recycling alone cannot adequately decrease the environmental impacts and address the human health concerns associated with the proliferation of plastic bottles.

 When would the proposed bylaw go into effect?

Not until January 1, 2020. This is so businesses and the community have time to adjust.