If you pass through Concord these days and want to slake your thirst with a bottle of water, you may be out of luck. A new rule bars Concord businesses from selling water bottles of one liter or less.
The rule is supposed to help the environment, but critics say it’s government overreach – and they’re pushing for a repeal.
For small businesses like Concord’s Trail’s End Café, bottled water is an easy moneymaker – a low-cost product with a high profit margin. But as of January 1, Trail’s End can no longer sell the smaller, single-serving bottles that most people tend to buy. That has co-owner Elizabeth Akehurst-Moore worried.
“There are convenience stores in other towns not very far away from here, so I expect people will just go there if they really want bottled water,” Akehurst-Moore said. “That’s, as a business owner, not fabulous.”
And while Akehurst-Moore thinks Concord’s first-in-the-nation ban threatens her bottom line, she also says there’s a bigger principle at stake.
“People having a choice to have a healthy drink, especially in a town of tourists, where there are a lot of people coming from out of town who won’t realistically have a re-useable bottle with them – I think it’s important,” she said.
Backers of the Concord ban say they’re the ones looking at the big picture – and that banning the sale of small bottles will help the environment. That argument swayed a narrow majority of Concord voters, who approved the ban last year. This week, most of the people we spoke with said they support it.
“It’s a moral decision, I think, to stop using so many plastics,” said one resident.
“I love the forward thinking, and I’m OK with it,” said another.
“I think there’s a lot of waste out there, and town water’s pretty good,” said a third.
Whether the ban will make a major difference is debatable. At Concord Provisions, an upscale market near the Concord commuter-rail station, plenty of other plastic-water bottles are still on the shelves. Now, the store is poised to sell single-serving glass bottles, which the ban doesn’t cover. But manager Stacey Ristuccia says that will create its own problems.
“The recycling out front is going to be a mess,” Ristuccia said. “People just throw things in there, we already have glass all over the ground.”
It’s also not clear that the ban will last. A group called Concord Residents for Consumer Choice is pushing to repeal it at Concord’s upcoming town meeting. At Concord provisions, they’re planning accordingly.
“We’re hearing that they’re going to repeal it in a month,” Ristuccia said. “So we have a few cases downstairs that we’re just going to wait off on.”
Akehurst-Moore is part of that repeal effort. She says the ban’s supporters had good intentions, but overreached in a way that’s quintessentially Concord.
“I think there are a lot of really smart people in Concord, and it’s an intellectually very vibrant place,” Akehurst-Moore said. “And I think there are people who are very active and take what they believe in and try to put into motion, which I don’t disapprove of. However, I think there’s sometimes a lack of looking at the practical.”
A description the ban’s backers might dispute.