Deseret News Archives

Next time you go to the grocery store, try not to buy any plastic container. Buying milk for the kids will be far more challenging, not to mention purchasing motor oil and many processed foods. Shampoo? Forget about it. Plastic is a part of life.

Because plastic exacts an environmental toll in its production and disposal, we should all try to curb our use of it. That's what the U.S. Conference of Mayors is attempting to promote by passing a resolution that discourages the use of bottled water by city governments. Except for public safety employees, it makes sense that cities come up with a means to reduce plastic use and to establish policies that encourage recycling of plastic in their communities.

As a practical matter, it will probably mean more water pitchers and glasses at public meetings. For desk jockeys, it should be fairly easy to follow the recommendations.

Fire, emergency services and police have different needs. A firefighter in the midst of battling a structure fire needs to drink a lot of fluids. A plastic water bottle works well in those cases.

Suppose there was a mass casualty disaster. The quickest and most hygienic way to hydrate accident victims would be to provide bottled water.

The American Beverage Association said by passing the resolution, mayors have chosen "sound-bite environmentalism" over sound public policy. The association rightly points to significant aid rendered by the beverage industry in times of natural disaster, noting that 4 million bottles of water have been donated to affected communities this year alone.

While the nation's mayors are to be commended for setting an example and bringing this issue to the forefront, the industry notes that plastic water bottles are fully recyclable. More needs to be done through education and policy to promote recycling. Municipalities' buying practices should encourage the purchase of recycled materials.

That trip to the grocery store should impress upon you that plastic water bottles are but part of the problem. Individuals can help reduce their use of plastic by purchasing reusable grocery bags and attempting to recycle or reuse all plastic, paper and aluminum that comes in their homes — no government policies required.