City Council banswater bottle sales

Western to keep status quo

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

It looks like Westerners won’t have to go thirsty this year.

London’s recent water bottle ban will not affect the sale of refreshments on campus anytime soon.

London City Council met this summer and proposed bottled water not be sold in municipal buildings because of the detrimental effects the plastic containers impose on the environment.

City councillor Cheryl Miller chaired the committee that brought forth the proposal. She said a major reason for the ban came from London sitting on two water boards.

“We bring in wonderful water and here we are drinking water bottles,” Miller said. “The amount of plastic bottles that make it into the landfills is ridiculous.”

The city estimated about 40 per cent of its plastic bottles end up in the trash, a staggering number considering approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil are used annually to make more plastic containers in North America when old ones could otherwise be reused.

Miller mentioned how the city tried to convince the province to put a 10 cent deposit on bottled water, which would have hopefully persuaded consumers to return empties to recycling centres. When that proposal was ignored the city took matters into its own hands.

“London has always been a leader … and we wanted to show leadership by putting a ban,” Miller said.

City councillors voted 15 to 3 in favour of the ban, and as of Sept. 1, municipal buildings like City Hall no longer sell bottled water.

The ban has generated a lot of attention for London. Famed environmentalist David Suzuki, who launched his own personal campaign against the use of plastic bottles, has praised the city for taking the initiative and being one of the first municipalities taking a stand against plastic water bottles.

Other major cities like Toronto and Vancouver are currently considering enacting similar bans. Miller encouraged other cities to follow London’s example:

“If the province won’t show leadership, municipalities should,” Miller stated.

But not everyone believes prohibiting the sale of bottled water is the answer.

Will Bortolin, EnviroWestern coordinator, is skeptical about the success of a ban exclusively dealing with the sale of bottles of water.

“Do they just bring water from home or buy PowerAde instead?” Bortolin questioned, adding a similar ban at Western would only act as a quick fix to a more complicated problem. Instead, more emphasis should be placed on the recycling of plastic bottles rather than the sale of them, Bortolin argued.

Miller was open to discussing the objections some had to the idea, going on to say City Council’s greatest concern was people would be more inclined to purchase beverages with excess sugar since water was no longer available.

The ban does not restrict the sale of juice or energy drinks, which will still be offered in municipal buildings. When asked why the ban was on bottled water only, Miller said: “You can’t turn your tap on and get juice.”

University Students’ Council President Stephen Lecce commended the city’s good intentions, even if Western is seeking a different direction.

“The city is trying its best to eliminate and reduce waste. It’s fair to say water bottles add to the waste and that reducing plastic bottles is a positive step, but a ban is not [the only] step.”

Western is doing its own part to reduce the number of plastic bottles being thrown away. Recyclable paper cups were used at water stands during Orientation Week and the filtered water dispenser that was recently installed in the University Community Centre’s Centre Spot also uses paper instead of plastic cups.

Bortolin said people should be allowed to make their own decisions.

“People need to choose to not buy plastic bottles,” Bortolin said, adding more awareness needs to be made about the importance of recycling and smart consumerism. “A ban would only lead to angry students who don’t understand the issue.”

Despite the criticism, the city is still optimistic about the future of the project, with a plan in the works to install water fountains and water dispensers in parks and municipal buildings to decrease the need for bottles.

Later this year London will also see the sale of water prohibited in arenas and golf courses, with the hope the initiative will reach local school boards as well.

Miller added City Council is going to keep people’s health its first priority.

“If we cannot properly hydrate our people, then we will have to bring the bottles back.”

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