Councilman wants to ban bottled water

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Aspen City Councilman Torre returned from a recent sailing expedition in the British Virgin Islands blown away by the volume of plastic bottles that littered the otherwise pristine blue waters.

Besides an island tan and a refreshed demeanor, Torre brought something else back from the trip: a desire to reduce or ban outright the sale and use of disposable plastic bottled water containers in Aspen.

“When [I was on vacation], it hit me the hardest,” Torre said. “I couldn’t believe the waste and the pollution. Even though it’s not floating around Aspen, it’s still here.”

At a Tuesday City Council work session, Torre broached the subject of directing city environmental health department officials to investigate options for banning or discouraging single-use plastic bottled water containers in Aspen — 80 percent of which are not recycled, according to a national study.

Council members present at the meeting supported the directive to spend staff time researching the issue. Aspen tap water is, after all, some of the finest tasting municipal water in the country, council members said. And reusable water bottle technology is at an all time high.

 Heather Rousseau/Aspen Daily News
Stacks of bottled water are on display at City Market. Councilman Torre proposed a ban on bottled water during a City Council work session on Tuesday.

City environmental health specialist Ashley Cantrell said she would look into what other municipalities have done on the issue. Cantrell said she would research both a regulatory program banning plastic bottles and voluntary efforts the government could undertake to discourage plastic bottle use.

Other governments have enacted programs to discourage or ban bottles. The state of North Carolina recently enacted a law requiring all plastic bottles to be recycled and diverted from landfills.

San Francisco’s City Hall has a policy of not purchasing bottled water and not using it or selling it at city-sponsored events.

Concord, Mass. passed a law in May banning the sale of plastic bottles within city limits, but the state attorney general found the law, which was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, to be unenforceable.

Torre said he would like to see all forms of single-use plastic containers go away eventually, which would eliminate the petroleum consumption needed to produce the plastic, cut down on litter and save valuable landfill space.

But his intention with a potential local ordinance “is really to start the conversation about bottled water.”

“I’d like this to be a conversation that the plastic bottle industry listens to and changes what it does,” he said.