Every year at Arlington High School, students in an environmental club talk to freshmen about the harmful effects of plastic water bottles and give a taste test to see whether they prefer bottled water or tap water.
“Nine out of 10 of the students prefer the tap water,” said Sonia Zacher, a senior in the Students Against Violating the Environment club, which is known as SAVE.
Now Zacher and two of her classmates in the club, Amy Currul and Marina Milan, are going to put water bottles to the test throughout town.
Inspired by the town of Concord, the students will ask Arlington’s Town Meeting members in April to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles.
The students collected 108 signatures to place a petition article on the Special Town Meeting warrant for April 24, proposing a ban similar to the one that took effect in Concord at the start of this year.
Currul, the president of SAVE, said the students think that the ban could pass in Arlington, and that it would be good for the environment. But they did encounter some opposition while gathering their signatures, Currul said, and the students suspect there could be some backlash from the business community.
“We’ve seen some of the arguments that were made against Concord and some of the things that Concord had to go through to get it passed,” Currul said. “I think that really helps that we’re not the first ones to do it.”
Concord residents voted last April to ban the sale of single-serving water bottles in local stores despite objections that the measure represents an attack on personal freedom and could embroil the town in costly litigation. Concord’s ban, seen as the first of its kind in the nation, took effect on Jan. 1.
Arlington is no stranger to controversial bans.
Last spring, Town Meeting voted to ban the use of gasoline-power leaf blowers on private property from May 15 to Oct. 15 of each year.
Opposition to the bylaw led to a special town election last summer in which a majority of voters supported overturning the measure, but the total fell just shy of the number needed to overturn a Town Meeting decision. A proposal for a revised leaf-blower ban is slated for this spring’s Special Town Meeting warrant as well.
Zacher said the water bottle ban proposed for Arlington uses much of the language of the Concord ban.
The proposed Arlington ban would prohibit the sale of “non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles’’ of 1 liter or less, except in the event of an emergency, according to a posting on the town’s website, www.arlingtonma.gov.
Peter Zheng, the owner of 7 Star Grocery on Medford Street in Arlington, said he would not be in favor of a ban because it could hurt his business.
Zheng said many people come into his store in the summer just to get a bottle of water, and not many people will buy the larger bottles.
Zheng said water is also a popular choice of people trying to be healthy, but a ban could change that.
“If they were forced, people would drink soda instead of water,” he said.
Milan, a 17-year-old senior at Arlington High, said she does not think that people who try not to drink much soda would drink more if the plastic water-bottle ban was passed. She said the students are advocating for people to carry their own reusable bottles to fill with tap water, cutting down on waste and saving money as well.
“I really hope that it doesn’t promote drinking soda,” she said.
Zacher said banning the water bottles would help eliminate them from collecting in landfills and taking centuries to decompose.
She said the harm the plastic bottles have on the environment outweighs the profits made from selling the bottles.
Zacher said the article’s supporters will be reaching out to Town Meeting’s elected members in the upcoming weeks, and will also be making a presentation about water bottles at Special Town Meeting.