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Ban plastic water bottle sales? One U.S. town just did

Sami Siva/The Globe and Mail

In "green" Vancouver, it's not uncommon to see picnicking families haul out lawn chairs, hibachis and flats of single-serving plastic water bottles – even with taps of some of the world's best municipal drinking water just a few steps away.

South of the border, a Massachusetts town has decided that flagrant consumption of plastic water bottles should no longer fly.

Concord, Mass., has banned the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles, the Boston Herald reports. The bylaw, posted on the Town of Concord's website, states: "It shall be unlawful to sell non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 litre (34 ounces) or less in the Town of Concord on or after Jan. 1, 2013."

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Violators face up to a $50 (U.S.) fine, with Concord's Health Division responsible for enforcing the ban.

Critics say the measure will hurt local businesses, since single-serving bottles can be purchased in other towns within walking distance.

"It's kind of dumb," Concord resident Camille Galejs told local news organization WHDH. But how smart is it to pay through the nose for a commodity that's practically free?

The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates, equals about 49 cents a year. The same amount of bottled water costs about $1,400, according to the tap water activist group Ban the Bottle.

Over the past 30 years, corporations have branded what was once a free natural resource into a multibillion-dollar industry, while raising doubts about the taste and safety of local drinking water, says Peter Gleick, a freshwater expert and author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water .

"I think for the most part, we have great tap water," Gleick told NPR.

Libertarians may argue that with recycling facilities readily available, there's no reason to restrict freedom of choice.

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But, unfortunately, the recycling rate for plastic water bottles is less than 25 per cent, which means in the United States alone, more than 38 billion bottles a year end up in landfills, Fast Company reports.

Cleaning up parks littered with discarded water bottles is no picnic either.

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