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U of W Moves to Ban Water Bottles on Campus

by Archives March 31, 2009

Last week the University of Winnipeg became the first university in Canada to ban plastic water bottles on campus, and a Montreal group is trying to do the same here.
The ban at U of W came after almost 75 per cent of students voted in favour of it.
The ban is not being implemented just yet, because the university does not have enough water fountains installed on campus to serve the entire student population.
This ban, once implemented, will include every container from small, portable water bottles to the bigger gallon water containers.
Vinay Iyer, University of Winnipeg Students’ Association President, said realistically speaking, water bottles should be out of sight by January 2010. Though he considers the ban a success, some students are a little upset about this new rule. “They have a right to be angry- because they are just not informed,” said Iyer, he said that tap water is actually safer than bottled water because of toxic elements in the plastic used for water bottles; something he said many students aren’t aware of.
TapThirst, a Montreal-based project that lobbies against selling and consuming bottled water, is working with McGill and Concordia in hopes of eliminating bottled water on campuses at both universities.
According to a recent audit of the university’s waste. Concordia University alone sees 1.2 million bottles of water go through the hands of students and administration each year, according to the data.
Getting the attention of administration at Concordia hasn’t been the problem, said Laura Beach, TapThirst’s co-founder. The problem, she said, is that they’re not following through. “A major obstacle is the lack of communication,” said Beach.
On-campus associations such as Sustainable Conordia have already adopted a “no bottle” policy. Beach said this is a sign of hope for Concordia. “I am optimistic that that things will happen and the ball will keep rolling,” she said. One obstacle anti-water bottle advocates have to overcome, according to Beach, is how companies make people think tap water is safer for them. She said that, while the City of Montreal’s water is tested daily, companies don’t test their water very often.
Sustainable Concordia’s environmental co-coordinator Louise Hénault-Éthier also said water bottles are simply unnecessary. “The quality of tap water in Montreal is really high,” she said. “Bringing your own refillable container will allow you to have fresh, clean water available to you whenever you like, by simply refilling it at the water fountain.”
The Students’ Society of McGill University has already taken a step in banning water bottles in their building. “McGill is committed to sustainable operation”, said Dennis Fortune, McGill’s Sustainability Director. “We believe we should be encouraging tap water.”
Hénault-Éthier also points to the high price of bottled water. Water is a free resource, she said, “we shouldn’t need to purchase it.”

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