Calls for bottled water bans grow in Canada

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

London, Ontario is the latest in a string of Canadian cities to have acted on increasing public demand to ban bottled water. On Monday, the decision to eliminate bottled water sales in city-run facilities was passed by London's city council with a vote of 15-3 in favour. The move was driven by a desire to reduce waste and shipping, have a lower impact on the environment and promote tap water as a cheap and safe alternative.

London's new restrictions will be implemented over the next several months in buildings that are already equipped with water fountains. Bottled water will still be permitted at many city-run events, such as upcoming summer festivals. Privately-owned retailers will not be affected by the ban.

Bottled water

Other cities, such as Vancouver, Ottawa and Kitchener, that are already engaged in debate on the issue, may now be watching London carefully for how the ban plays out. Other areas have already begun to phone London with questions on the details of its new regulations. Toronto has begun taking a look at bottled water packaging as part of its waste diversion strategy, and its public school board is looking into the possibility of a total restriction on bottled water sales.

In recent years, an awareness of the energy that is required to manufacture, transport and recycle the product has spread nation-wide. Proponents of the ban point to the fact that it can produce as much as 150 times the volume of greenhouse gas when producing bottled water as compared to supplying the same volume of tap water. They also point out that the water that goes into bottled water products is not inspected as frequently as tap water in Canadian cities.

Some have taken this cause to heart more than others, such as British Environment Minister Phil Woolas, who called the use of bottled water "morally unacceptable." Restaurant critic Giles Coren of The Times of London criticizes those who use the product as "the new smokers."

Canada's beverage industry has come down with criticism on the increasing opposition to bottled water. Spokesman Scott Tabachnick for Coca-Cola Co., which produces Dasani brand bottled water, commented on the convenience of the product: "It's hard to bring your kitchen sink with you."

Cquote1.svg It's hard to bring your kitchen sink with you. Cquote2.svg

—Scott Tabchnick

Vancouver City Councillor Tim Stevenson thinks that bottled water's time has come and gone: "Bottled water companies have had a fabulous ride on an unnecessary fad." Vancouver officials are still determining how bottled water restrictions, which have been voted for by the City Council, can be phased in.

Next month, the city is planning to initiate a marketing campaign encouraging Vancouver residents to choose tap water and to remember to carry reusable drinking containers whenever possible.

Renowned environmental activist Dr. David Suzuki has praised London's decision, saying that it represents a turning point for people's perceptions on the issue: "I'm really delighted that London has done this because it really makes us focus on some fundamental issues." He hopes that someday people will "look at anyone who hauls out a bottle of water and say, 'What the hell's wrong with you?'"


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