Pop is bottled in plastic, too

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Ah, yes, I remember the bottled water aisle, said no one ever

Ah, yes, I remember the bottled water aisle, said no one ever

Examining the consequences of banning bottled water

Article: Liam Fitz-Gerald – Contributor

In September 2013, the University of Saskatchewan’s Environment and Sustainability Student’s Association began advocating the ban, with one of its representatives stating that “tap water is safe and it’s also the more sustainable way to consume water.” Indeed, the U of S has joined the ranks of several other universities and municipalities pushing for a ban on bottled water including the University of Toronto, Memorial, Ryerson, Winnipeg and on a macro-level, the New York City Council, U.K Green Party and Denmark. Opponents of bottled water also oppose the idea of capitalizing on a resource necessary to sustain life.

If something like this can pass at the University of Toronto or any larger university in southern Ontario or the United States, then it can at the U of S. However, is such a ban really the best policy option? Quintin Zook, the U of S’ director of consumer services, mentioned in discussions with Global News that such a ban may produce unintended consequences, one of them being that individuals may start consuming more soft drinks, which, if I’m not mistaken, are also bottled in plastic. I think that Mr. Zook is onto something. I’m not hearing a call for a ban on plastic soda beverages and I thought there was something about an obesity epidemic in North America.

An unintended side effect that I’m worried about with bottled water bans are situations where water supplies become contaminated. Suppose that tons of chemicals wind up in a municipal tap water supply. Bottled water could help out in that situation. The mess that occurred in the state of Virginia a couple of weeks ago shows a situation where it could come in handy.

Where there should be real concern is over the commoditisation of water. However, a more effective method to discourage bottled fresh water may be taxes. After all, what kills private interest in something quicker than a tax? Simply making it unprofitable to capitalize on fresh water could curb abuses of it. On top of that, let’s add a quota of who can sell fresh water and how much can be taken. The result is twofold, bottled water is now expensive and used less, but there is still a supply of it available in case of emergencies.

I’m all for having more water bottle filling stations on campus, but I do think bottled water can serve a purpose during water supply emergencies. I also think that having bottled water as an option, as opposed to just pop, also justifies its continued existence. If such an initiative comes up at the U of R, how about we chat in conjunction with city council and representatives from provincial and federal governments about taxing rather than prohibiting.

Image: Ivy Main

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