Thursday, June 26, 2008

U.S. Mayors Agree to Phase Out Bottled Water



A year ago, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom took the bold step of banning the use of bottled water in San Francisco City and County governments. Now it looks like he has been able to influence other mayors to follow his lead. Below is also the American Beverage Association's response to this action. Relying, of course on "sound science", they term the ban "sound-bite environmentalism".

In this post, I present Agence France Presse's coverage of this newsworthy event, followed by reaction from The American Beverage Association, and finally, my letter to The American Beverage Association. Read more
Published on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 by Agence France Presse

The US Conference of Mayors on Monday passed a resolution calling for a phasing out of bottled water by municipalities and promoting the importance of public water supplies.

The vote comes amid increasing environmental concerns about the use of bottled water because of its use of plastic and energy costs to transport drinking supplies.

The mayors, meeting in Miami, approved a resolution proposed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom along with 17 other large-city mayors to redirect taxpayer dollars from bottled water to other city services.

“Cities are sending the wrong message about the quality of public water when we spend taxpayer dollars on water in disposable containers from a private corporation,” said Newsom.

“Our public water systems are among the best in the world and demand significant and ongoing investment.”

According to the activist group Think Outside the Bottle, more than 60 mayors in the United States have already canceled bottled water contracts.

“It’s just plain common sense for cities to stop padding the bottled water industry’s bottom line at taxpayer expense,” said Gigi Kellett, national director of the Think Outside the Bottle campaign.

“This resolution will send the strong message that opting for tap over bottled water is what’s best for our environment, our pocketbooks and our long-term, equitable access to our most essential resource.”

The American Beverage Associations called the resolution “tainted with hypocrisies and inaccuracies.”

“While some mayors oppose the use of bottled water by city governments, most mayors across America gladly welcome bottled water when disaster strikes,” the industry group said in a statement.

“Our beverage companies continually come to the aid of communities ravaged by floods, fires, hurricanes, other natural disasters and compromised municipal water systems.”

The group said plastic water bottles “are 100 percent recyclable, making bottled water one of the few fully recyclable consumer goods.”

© 2008 Agence France Presse


And now for the American Beverage Association's response. Clearly, these people haven't traveled much, and seen the impact of plastic bottles on landscapes around this planet.

Release Date: Jun 23, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2008

Contacts: Kevin Keane
(202) 463-6716
(202) 701-5059


AMERICAN BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION SAYS SMALL GROUP OF MAYORS LEAD U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS TO CHOOSE SOUND-BITE ENVIRONMENTALISM OVER SUBSTANTIVE CONCERNS OF FAMILIES


MIAMI -- The American Beverage Association said a small group of mayors led the U.S. Conference of Mayors to embrace today “sound-bite environmentalism” over sound public policy by passing a resolution discouraging the use of bottled water by city government, rather than address the more pressing economic and pocketbook issues burdening American families.

The USCM rubber-stamped a resolution that narrowly survived its policy-making committee process comprised of a small group of mayors – a committee process that drew strong dissent from mayors who viewed the measure as mere symbolism and out-of-touch with the priorities of American families. The final USCM vote clearly does not reflect a meaningful consensus by America’s mayors.

“It’s disappointing that some mayors find it more important to spend their time attacking a healthy beverage at a time when families are suffering from floods, rising food and fuel costs and threats to their homes and jobs,” said Kevin Keane, a senior vice president of the American Beverage Association. “A few mayors have chosen sound-bite environmentalism over sound public policy in their zeal to appease liberal activist groups that are pedaling misinformation about bottled water.”

The bottled water measure is tainted with hypocrisies and inaccuracies. While some mayors oppose the use of bottled water by city governments, most mayors across America gladly welcome bottled water when disaster strikes. Our beverage companies continually come to the aid of communities ravaged by floods, fires, hurricanes, other natural disasters and compromised municipal water systems. Our companies do so readily and proudly, having donated more than 4 million bottles of water to hurting communities so far this year.

“This resolution is just cynical politics. It’s like being against rope until you need a lifeline,” Keane said. “There’s great irony in the fact that beverage companies are actively helping mayors in flood-ravaged communities in the Midwest recover, while a handful of mayors in Miami are attacking the water products providing those residents with safe drinking water and good health.”

The environmental claims made by a few mayors about bottled water hold no water at all.

Plastic water bottles are 100 percent recyclable, making bottled water one of the few fully recyclable consumer goods. The recycled plastic from these bottles is in high demand to make new plastic bottles, carpeting, winter jackets, clothing and other consumer goods.

The reuse of recycled plastic bottles reduces materials going to landfills and resources needed to make other consumer goods, including reducing our reliance on oil for the manufacture of consumer products. And the plastic bottle keeps water safe as it makes its way to consumers.

“We’re making a positive impact on the environment that goes far beyond politically expedient sound-bites,” Keane said. “There’s no other consumer products industry doing more to reduce its impact on the environment than the beverage industry.”

Passage of the resolution, which was instigated by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and activist groups he is close to, certainly doesn’t reflect the views of most American mayors. The USCM policy-making process essentially allows a resolution to move from approval of a small committee to the acceptance of the full conference as part of a large slate of diverse resolutions.

“We believe that common sense will prevail when mayors return to their communities, as most recognize more pressing challenges are facing their communities than concerns about a healthy water beverage,” Keane said. “And we certainly encourage mayors and their staff to learn the full facts about plastic water bottles and their impact on the environment, as well as how the beverage industry is leading the consumer products industry in reducing its impact on the environment. They’re receiving a great deal of inaccurate and misleading information from liberal activist groups.”

More information on bottled water, its containers and industry’s environmental initiatives can be found at www.ameribev.org.

The American Beverage Association is the trade association representing the broad spectrum of companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages in the United States.


And, finally, my message to Mr. Keane, sent today:
ATTENTION: Mr. Kevin Keane

Dear Mr. Keane

You should be ashamed to publish such a ludicrous piece as your recent press release “AMERICAN BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION SAYS SMALL GROUP OF MAYORS LEAD U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS TO CHOOSE SOUND-BITE ENVIRONMENTALISM OVER SUBSTANTIVE CONCERNS OF FAMILIES”.

To equate the Mayors’ decision to phase out bottled water in city governments, where abundant, clean, low-cost municipal water is available to denying disaster victims potable water in their time of need is childish at best.

To claim that the use of plastic bottles is “helping the environment” is an absurdity. True, a percentage of plastic bottles are recycled – WORLDWIDE, AN INSIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE! Tell me that this is environmentally more benign than not using the bottles in the first place. What “science” do you subscribe to? Clearly, you have not traveled to Third World countries and seen the landscape littered with the containers, or gathered into burning, smoldering heaps along the roadside. I have personally witnessed this in numerous countries. And it’s sickening. (I must admit, that in my trips to Washington, I have seen few plastic bottles littering The Mall.)

The Mayors’ symbolic gesture helps educate citizens and sends a message. The unnecessary and wasteful use of precious resources must be minimized.

This is not to say plastic containers do not have a significant role to play in meeting human needs. As you point out, they are the most efficient vehicle for supplying essential water to many disaster victims.

But to imply that their recyclability makes plastic containers environmentally benign ignores the much larger truth associated with petroleum extraction and refining, transportation impacts or the impact of MOST containers being disposed of in landfills, or upon the landscape. The carbon footprint of a simple plastic beverage container is enormous. And you would condemn those who would suggest we instead just turn on the tap and take advantage of an infrastructure that is already extant? Under what authority do you speak as an “environmentalist”?

And if the American Beverage Association is truly concerned with the “substantive concerns of families”, how can you, in good conscience, support a bottled water industry that financially rapes the consumer while earning obscene profits from something that should be virtually free?

Shame on you.

Sincerely,

Tim Campion
Santa Rosa, CA

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