DOWNTOWN — For Raphael Mawrence, it isn’t a strange sight to see plastic bottles floating on water as opposed to containing it.
“I go to the beach and see a lot of trash in the water,” the surfing regular said.
It’s for that reason that the Santa Monica High School student pledged to support public drinking water and refrain from using plastic bottles, his signature among the many displayed on a poster at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Wednesday for the “Take Back the Tap” campaign.
In partnership with City Hall, Washington D.C.-based Food & Water Watch launched a new initiative to encourage consumers to abandon what they call environmentally-destructive, single-use plastic bottles, offering free unfiltered tap water at self-serve stations during the Farmers’ Market.
The station will be introduced at the Saturday market on the Third Street Promenade this weekend and later at the Virginia Avenue Park and Main Street markets next month.
“There’s a lot of really good sound reasons why we should be drinking water from the tap, not the least of which is Santa Monica and Los Angeles water [is] very safe,” Councilman Richard Bloom, who signed the pledge, said. “We release an annual report that talks about the safe levels of virtually everything in our water.”
It takes more than 17 million barrels of petroleum to produce plastic water bottles every year, approximately 80 percent of which end up in landfills or the ocean, Renee Maas, the water program organizer for Food & Water Watch, said.
There are also economic benefits that come with drinking unfiltered tap water, which costs .002 cents a gallon, while bottled water costs approximately $10.66 a gallon, according to Food & Water Watch. Filtered tap water costs about a quarter a gallon.
“It’s helping people save money and have a sustainable lifestyle economically, which is an important part of the program,” Bloom said.
The local initiative is part of a larger campaign by the organization to convince consumers to stop using plastic bottles. Approximately 50 restaurants in New York and another 100 in Northern California have already pledged to take plastic bottles off their menus. A similar effort will soon be launched in the Los Angeles area.
“It promotes a message that a lot of customers like,” Maas said. “A lot of these restaurants are organic or sustainable.”
The Santa Monica campaign drew Samohi science teacher Benjamin Kay and several of his students from Team Marine, a campus environmental organization that has been trying to persuade city officials to pass a ban on plastic bags.
The club has shifted some of its focus after watching the documentary, “Tapped,” which investigates the plastic bottle industry and the health impacts.
Kay said he believes the recycling program instituted by the state has not been too effective because California Refund Values don’t pay the consumer enough to return their recyclables.
“Recycling is part of the answer but also refusing to purchase single-use plastic items is probably the better solution for both humans and the planet,” he said.
Among the market vendors who signed the pledge is Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms, whose stand was located directly across from the tap water station.
Weiser said he has been trying to stop purchasing plastic bottles.
“I believe water from the tap is fine,” he said, holding a stainless steel reusable bottle. “It saves a lot of money and the quality of the water here is safe.”