Why VCS Supports the Plastic Bottle Ban

As part of a broader agenda of promoting more sustainable living, VCS's "Take Back the Tap" initiative is a collection of efforts meant to reduce the waste and pollution associated with bottled water. The most visible accomplishment so far is surely the 18 new water bottle refill stations installed across the Island, with many more in the works.

This spring, Plastic Free MV — an ambitious and dedicated group of students at the West Tisbury School — have placed an article on the town meeting warrant in three towns that would prohibit the sale of many types of small, disposable plastic bottles. Because their work is consistent with our broader objective to reduce plastic pollution on the Island — and in the oceans that surround and sustain us — the students’ bold and inspirational effort has earned the support of VCS. We hope it will gain the public’s as well.

This bylaw is an opportunity for our community to lead the nation. It’s a watershed moment that every voter can be excited to be a part of — the beginning of a real change in our relationship with plastic, and a broader culture of consumerism. The students of Plastic Free MV have been working on this effort for months, and they are optimistic that it will have ripple effects far and wide.

Should the bylaw pass, it would impact businesses — like restaurants, stores, and caterers — that sell plastic water or soda bottles, and we are sympathetic to their concerns about the challenges of switching. Businesses raised similar valid concerns about the VCS-led plastic bag ban two years ago. We believe the community will support businesses in adapting to another change, and two or three years from now all will similarly agree that the challenge will have been worth it.

The immediate result of the ban would be a change for the better in the containers we use for water and other beverages. Reliance on single-use plastic bottles for soda and water will give way to more sustainable, more recyclable containers like aluminum, glass, and cardboard. That will be a good thing.

More important, it sends a strong message about embracing a sustainable future for kids and their families. Free, chilled and filtered water is now available at more and more public places. Clean drinking water can and should be available to all, at minimal cost and environmental impact.

Students see that they are part of a larger effort on the Island and nationally. Reusable water bottles are now as ubiquitous as backpacks in our schools — so the next generation will expect quality drinking water to be freely available. Beyond the kids at West Tisbury School, other student groups across the Island are pursuing their own grassroots efforts to reduce waste, which we also heartily applaud.

The goal of the students in offering this bylaw is to inspire, not harm. Businesses are free to offer larger bottled beverages in plastic, and small, single-serving beverages in glass, metal or any other non-plastic material. And of course, in the event of a hurricane or other public emergency, an exemption allows for distribution of bottled water of any size or material. So come to your town meeting and add your voice of support for a more sustainable future.