Tag: ban

Tapping into Local Awesomeness


The Local Movement

Did you know that the City of Traverse City has been addressing plastic pollution, climate change, and water privatization for almost a decade? I’m so proud of our small but mighty Midwest town here in the heart of the Great Lakes.

In 2009, our city adopted a resolution to ban plastic bottled water from all municipal functions! Why? Because the city had already recognized the wasteful nature of single-use plastic water bottles, the staggering expense associated with bottled water, the climate change impacts and carbon footprint associated with producing and shipping plastics made from fossil fuels, and the incredible high quality drinking water Traverse City provides its residents. City Planner, Russ Soyring, explained that this resolution is a reflection of the city’s culture now. And it’s a testimony to how resilient we are when we decide to be. 

In less than 10 years, bottled water has outstripped the sales of carbonated soda beverages, and bottled water has been become another normalized American addiction. Compared to municipal water, bottled water can cost up to 2000% more per volume than tap water. Around 64% of commercial bottled water is just tap water that’s been filtered or purified. 70% of plastic water bottles are not recycled — and still people drink from them.

The Larger Conversation

This conversation about bottled water is a critical one to us at FLOW because it opens the door to a larger policy conversation about the urgency of retaining and protecting water as a public resource. That’s why we started the Get Off the Bottle campaign. That’s why we started mapping all the drinking fountains and refillable bottled water stations on an app called WeTap. If we’re going to change our habits, we know we need alternatives like knowing where we can fill up our reusable water bottle. 

In buying bottled water, consumers are inadvertently legitimizing the capture of water that belongs to all of us by private, for-profit companies who reap unearned, enormous riches. Water belongs to the public and cannot be privately owned. Turning water into a product for private profit is inconsistent with the 1500-year-old public trust doctrine of law and risks putting all water up for grabs. 

The majority of municipal water systems in this country – some 85% — are publicly owned and remain accountable to residents under constitutional and public governance. But as our municipal infrastructure continues to age without adequate funding support, there will be increasing pressure to privatize our drinking and wastewater systems. The latest example comes to us from Puerto Rico. And clear patterns emerge from water privatization, well documented to include: rate increases, lack of public accountability and transparency, higher operation costs, worse customer service, loss of one in three water jobs. A Food & Water Watch survey of rates by 500 water systems showed that privatized systems typically charge 59 percent more than publicly owned systems.

We know there is no one size that fits all; however, when it comes to water, we have to affirmatively commit to protecting it as a shared public resource. To this end, we believe that local governments across the Great Lakes Basin must insist on key principles that Jim Olson articulated in his blog several months ago:

  1. Declare all water public; just because our natural public water commons enter an intake pipe does not mean this water loses its public common and sovereign status. Government at all times must manage and provide water as sovereign for the benefit of people.
  2. Impose public oversight with a duty to protect the public service, public interest, public health, and public trust in water and the infrastructure the water passes through;
  3. Establish rights and Impose duties of accountability, notice, participation, equal access to safe, adequate, clean, affordable public water;
  4. Guarantee principles of due process, equal protection of law, and right to basic water service;
  5. Guarantee affordability and equity in access and use of water by all residents and customers;
  6. Implement fair and innovative pricing, subject to public oversight, a public utility or water board, with a statement of rights, duties, enforcement, and government process to assure safe, clean, affordable public water.

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director

 

Fundamentally, while national and state environmental policies are critically important, we know that local communities are where policies take shape in our daily lives. It’s right here in our own communities where we can make a difference. Thanks TC for taking back the tap!


Progress on Plastics

Roughly 500 million straws are used and disposed of in the United States every day.[1] Even though you might want to think that the majority of those straws end up in recycling facilities, the reality is that they do not. These tiny unnecessary tubes end up in landfills, city streets, beaches, oceans, and even the Great Lakes. Plastic straws contribute to 22 million pounds of plastic discarded into the water of the Great Lakes each year, which continually degrades the ecosystem health and environmental quality of the Great Lakes and its shoreline.[2]

Recently, there has been a strong push to ban plastic straws and utensils across the globe. In fact, on July 1st, Seattle will become the first major U.S. city to ban food service businesses from using plastic food items such as to-go containers, cups, straws, and utensils.[3]Smaller cities such as Malibu, CA and Miami Beach, FL have also introduced similar bans on plastic straws; while the state of California and other major cities like Portland, OR and New York City are also working towards passing single use plastic bans. [4]

Not only are cities and citizen groups demanding alternatives to plastics, but the food industry is also beginning to facilitate this must needed change. Fast food giant, McDonald’s, is already testing plastic straw alternatives across the U.S. and has set a plan to phase out all plastic straws in the U.K. and Ireland.[5] Additionally, Chicago’s largest restaurant group has also recently stopped using plastic straws in over 100 restaurants. [6] These incremental changes will hopefully inspire more of the food industry to shift away from single use plastics and lower the industry wide impact to the environment.

This continued progress of banning single use plastics must be commended. However, these are just the beginning steps of a long journey ahead. We must continue to push for alternatives to single use plastics and pressure our own communities to follow Seattle’s bold commitment to the environment. In addition, we all must make the personal commitment to stop using single-use plastics. We must say that “this is the last straw,” and do our part in stopping the flow of plastic pollutants into our environment.


[1] https://www.nps.gov/articles/straw-free.htm

[2] https://www.ecowatch.com/plastic-great-lakes-2157466316.html

[3]http://www.seattle.gov/util/forbusinesses/solidwaste/foodyardbusinesses/commercial/foodpackagingrequirements/

[4] https://www.fastcompany.com/40580132/here-are-the-u-s-cities-that-have-banned-plastic-straws-so-far

[5] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/15/mcdonalds-to-phase-out-plastic-straws-in-the-uk-and-ireland.html

[6] https://chicago.eater.com/2018/6/20/17485768/lettuce-entertain-you-restaurants-plastic-straw-ban-chicago