HARWICH — If a petition article passes muster with voters this spring, Harwich town departments will no longer be able to purchase or distribute beverages in plastic bottles.
The article, submitted in Harwich by resident Patrick Otton, is not a town-wide ban on single-use plastic bottles, just a bylaw change to prohibit town government from procuring and distributing them.
“I walk the beaches daily, and I pick up enormous amounts of plastic,” Otton said. “The essence here is awareness to change our behavior. The town has a responsibility for our well-being. If they can set the example, others may follow,” he said.
The Harwich petition article is part of a Cape-wide initiative organized by Madhavi Venkatesan and her Brewster-based nonprofit, Sustainable Practices. Similar articles will appear on town meeting warrants in Chatham, Eastham and Barnstable, and the Orleans bylaw is expected to be filed this week, Venkatesan said.
“Arguably, plastic is a known human health issue based on the fact that it cannot biodegrade and will enter the human food chain. Further, plastic production relies on non-renewable resources and creates toxic emissions at the point of production, recycling and incineration-based waste disposal,” the article’s explanation reads. “Also, there is evidence that chemicals within plastic leach into the beverage within a bottle, thereby presenting yet another entry point for adverse health consequences.”
Otton said he recently saw the need for the ban when he witnessed town officials putting bottles of expired drinking water in the dumpster.
“They didn’t open the packages. They were still wrapped cases,” Otton said. “What are we doing? What’s the behavior we need to be modeling?”
If organizers succeed with the bottle ban, a next step will be to encourage the town to install special water fountains that allow people to easily refill reusable water bottles, he said. Ideally, some of the fountains would also include pet watering stations, Otton added.