Brewster Select Board Passes Plastic Bottle Policy

The Brewster Select Board passed a policy at its September 23, 2019 meeting that will reduce the Town’s use of single-use plastic beverage bottles. The policy, titled the “Municipal Drinking Water Access and Single-Use Plastic Bottle Policy,” has two impacts. First, it prohibits the Town of Brewster and Town personnel from purchasing with Town funds any beverage in a single-use plastic container. The policy also expresses the Town’s commitment to providing access to public water as a means to reduce the demand for single-use plastic bottles.

In spring 2019, the Select Board directed the Recycling Commission to study plastic bottle use by Town government and prepare a policy for the Board to consider. When a spring 2019 citizen’s petition that would have banned all plastic beverage bottles was introduced, Town Meeting voters also referred the issue to the Recycling Commission for study and to provide a report at spring 2020 Town Meeting.

A Recycling Commission work-group conducted research for several months into current uses of plastic bottles by Town groups and discussed alternatives to plastic. Based on that research and the evaluation of other similar government policies, the Recycling Commission forwarded the draft policy to the Select Board for action. The policy acknowledges that where the Town has a current contract that permits plastic bottle use, the Town can’t legally change the present contract. Future contracts will reflect the Town’s aim to reduce single-use plastic bottles.

The policy permits single-use bottle use by fire, rescue, police and health personnel if necessary for health and safety. The policy allows Select Board to provide a waiver to the policy for an entity that demonstrates a hardship and can demonstrate it recycles 90% or more of any plastic bottles permitted. The policy does not restrict personal use by Town personnel but encourages them to continue to use reusable bottles.

The policy requires the Town to undertake an inventory of all interior water bubblers and undertake a study of retrofitting units with water bubbler/water bottle-filling stations to increase access to public water. It also directs the Town to install bottle-filling stations at appropriate sites around town as funding permits.

The Recycling Commission research identified dozens of recycling and environmental activities already in use by Town personnel, as well as a few opportunities for improving recycling.

The policy takes effect September 1, 2020.