U of T to Phase Out Bottled Water Sales

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 1:00:00 PM

Campus News

U of T to Phase Out Bottled Water Sales

During this academic year, bottled water will no longer be available at the majority of locations on the St. George campus. Sales at U of T Mississauga and U of T Scarborough will be phased out during the next three years.The ban is the culmination of a campaign begun about three years ago by the Public Water Initiative, a campus student group committed to the issue for environmental and social justice reasons. The students contacted Ancillary Services to make their concerns known and educate staff about the issue. Ancillary Services conducted a survey in March 2011 of faculty, staff and students which found that 85 per cent of them favoured the ban.  Shortly after, President David Naylor approved a proposal brought forward by Ancillary Services for banning the sale of bottled water.  Food service outlets and vending machines on the St. George campus will phase out bottled water, and new water fountains with bottle-filling stations will begin cropping up.

For master's degree students Anda Petro (OISE/UT adult education and community development) and Leanne Rasmussen, the change is a rewarding one. They are among the members of Public Water Initiative who have been working towards educating the U of T community about the negative aspects of bottled water sales.  Both women view such change as vital, given both the environmental and social impacts of bottled water use. Local environmental impacts are obvious: there are huge numbers of bottles to recycle, and natural resources are expended to produce the plastic. In countries overseas, the impact is even more drastic.

The societal impacts are not as obvious, but no less important, says Rasmussen.  "Buying bottled water represents a loss of trust in the public system and discourages public investment instead of pushing the powers-that-be," she said. "It's a cycle that leads to further destruction."  Added Petro, "It's about access to water as a public resource, about taking back the public water system and holding government accountable."

The UN has declared safe and clean drinking water a basic human right, and both women believe the proliferation of bottled water contravenes that right.  "It's making water a commodity some can afford and some can't," said Andro.

This is an edited excerpt of an article from www.news.utoronto.ca.