Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis

Goal: $100k

On Wednesday, the Canadian government announced the list of single-use plastic products it plans to ban. Shockingly, the list does not include plastic water bottles. This is a serious oversight that must be remedied.

The plastics crisis is destroying our lakes, rivers and oceans. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature reports that “at least eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year," negatively affecting all marine species. A huge culprit is the bottled water industry.

Every minute, globally, a million plastic bottles of water are sold. The world is now producing half a trillion plastic water bottles every year, and only nine per cent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. The rest is dumped in landfills, forests, marshes and our shared waters.

Canadians consume more than two billion plastic bottles of water every year. This in a country where, overwhelmingly, the water coming from our taps is clean, safe, affordable and supplied by governments through public systems. There is no call whatsoever for governments to protect an industry that is contributing to the plastics crisis while spending public funds to clean and deliver safe drinking water to Canadian homes and workplaces.

Yet that is exactly what the Canadian government is doing. Because bottled water is considered a food product, its regulation is overseen by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

As such, the bottled water industry is openly promoted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, whose mission is to support the agri-food industry and “promote innovation and competitiveness.” Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's website openly promotes the “health and wellness benefits” of bottled water, in particular, flavoured bottled water geared to youth. The government site advises that “consumers are searching for convenient beverage options that offer nutritional and health benefits” to sugary high-calorie sodas.

In a February 2017 report, AgCanada lamented the “gap” in bottled water exports to China, concluding that the water-quality crisis in that country offers “significant opportunities” for the Canadian industry to "expand" into China and beyond.

Not surprisingly, a number of Canadian and foreign investors are taking the government up on this challenge. One Chinese investor has already shipped 200 container loads of water from a well near Chilliwack, B.C., and Whistler Water Inc., a consortium of Canadian and Chinese investors, announced the launch of an investment agreement to market premium Canadian glacial water to China.

Of course, the water comes from mining local groundwater and watersheds, and opposition is growing across the country. So intense is the reaction to the many new bottled water sites in B.C. that a petition in 2019 to the Union of BC Municipalities led to a resolution to ask the government to put an end to all water extractions for the bottled water industry. B.C. has experienced several years of intense drought, and people there are becoming very protective of their water heritage.

"A ban on single-use plastic water bottles would go a long way to meeting our commitment to reduce our plastic footprint ... and serve our commitment to protect clean water in a world where it is rapidly running out," says @MaudeBarlow.

A fierce fight against bottled water has taken place over the last decade in the largely rural area near Guelph, Ont. Nestle — which recently sold its Canadian holdings — has been pumping almost five million litres a day from two wells in the area, and had acquired the licence to operate a third well in Middlebrook, outbidding a local township that needs the water for a growing population.

Six Nations of the Grand River is an Indigenous community that has been particularly vocal in its opposition to this operation. With 90 per cent of the community without running water in their homes, residents are angry because the wells are on a tract of land ceded to them in treaties long ago.

Some will argue that we have to provide bottled water for those without access to clean water, especially to First Nations. It is tragically true that there is still a lack of safe water in many First Nations communities across the country. This is an issue I have personally spent considerable time working to change.

But communities needing to have water brought in rely on large water gallon containers, which would not be included in a ban on single-use water bottles. And surely the goal in Indigenous communities is not any form of plastic but safe, public tap or well water for all, as has been guaranteed by the United Nations as a fundamental human right.

It is past the time to declare water as a public trust and stop mining it for profit. A ban on single-use plastic water bottles would go a long way to meeting our commitment to reduce our plastic footprint, lower the carbon footprint of producing the plastic in the first place and serve our commitment to protect clean water in a world where it is rapidly running out.

Keep reading

Maude Barlow raises at least three serious issues here: plastic bottles, water exports, Indigenous water supplies. Problems too big to tackle? Why does the government not pay attention to her, instead of focusing on plastic straws and (re-usable) grocery bags?

You have to start somewhere! If plastic bottles were part of this, this article might be all about why they should be excluded... It's a step in the right direction and I applaud it.

Starting with bags and straws is great, but there should have been a projected plan to include plastic bottles of all sorts, with a date clearly stated.

Let's ban single use plastic water bottles. Legitimate needs for bottled water supply can still be met with refillable bottles.

According to the Washington Post, beverage can manufacturers have not been able to keep up with the demand during the Covid crisis:
Nevertheless, I agree that a ban on PET bottles in the developed world would probably be for the best, but there are some other factors to be considered. One factor is that PET is lighter and more robust than aluminum or refillable glass, both of which have their own carbon footprint. I don't think we can reasonably expect all poor countries to have the infrastructure for recycling or refilling beverage containers. It may also be pertinent to echo recent reports that scientists have made dramatic progress with enzymes that break down PET significantly faster than has heretofore been possible. Something else that I think should be considered when it comes to bottled water is that Coca-Cola is also a form of bottled water, and we certainly don't want our children reaching for a 'Coke' should we place a ban on what is otherwise a healthy beverage.

One other point that may be relevant is that bottled water, like so-called 'iced tea' (which is essentially a soft drink in most of Canada), is considered a "food" by the government when sold in a packaged format, and so is exempt from GST.

This article misses a couple of very relevant points. It states there is millions of tons of garbage going into the oceans but does anybody know how mich is intentionally being dumped by us Canadians? I don't believe there is anyplace in Canada that is legally dumping their garbage into any waterway. So that brings the next question about how does any plastics ban in Canada reduce the amount going into the ocean? I personally can not see the relevance or the benefit of this ban.
I also believe Canada has the base work started for effective recycling programs that must be developed more. There is currently technology being developed to recycle all landfill waste except for Concrete, glass and metal. (Check out Cielos and Enerchem).
We should be a world leader in developing these processes because there is far too many benefits to plastics if they can be managed properly.
In regards to the Native Reserves without running water or potable water (In Canada?? Really?? How disgusting and embarrassing is that!) This is absolutely a priority and should be a corruption investigation of the Federal government and probably the Band councils.
For the issue of water exports I have wondered why we don't use the water just before it goes into the ocean? It is still clean compared to what is currently being used and would not impact us in any way.

fill and CO2 footprints that are worth worrying about too. Ban the privatization of water - that I could get on board with. Canada has great pubic water utilities, with exceptional safety records; and yes, every hamlet and village should have clean tap water, regardless of who the customers are. Phasing out water as a commercial commodity is easily feasible, and incidentally, will cut down on PET bottles and the CO2 footprint associated with the industry. Pipelines rule!.

Define potable.
Would you drink water that makes an entire apartment or storey of a house stink of chlorine whenever the cold water tap is run? Water that kills goldfish and turns houseplants yellow, unless you let it stand for 24 hours, offgassing into the air you breathe?
When for weeks at a time it smells musty and comes out of the tap brown? (In a city of several million people we're told it's unpleasant but won't hurt us -- though sometimes we are told not to drink, or wash or cook food in it unless it's first boiled for X number of minutes ...)
And then, too, it's drawn directly from Lake Ontario, and the City doesn't test for various toxic chemical contaminants, including various agricultural chemicals and breakdown products of the chlorine compound they use to "purify" it.
Currently, if left to stand in a very clean closed glass vessel, it smells upon opening like sulfur.
It's not cheap, either.
Nor does the city in its "conservationist" wisdom, charge more for "big users." In fact, they get a better price per cubic metre. Go figure.
We used to be able to get actually clean water in rigid plastic, returnable bottles with a deposit, holding about 5 US gal. (about 18.9 L). They were banned, and now we have to replace them 15 L, flexible, throw-away bottles, with more toxic plasticizers.
But the water in them doesn't make me nauseated to drink.
Liquor bottles get returned to the liquor store, and people who don't want to return them themselves leave them out for local "collectors." You see them with their shopping carts, bicycles or wagons.
In BC, liquor stores provide "refunds" for all kinds of cans and bottles (glass and plastic), not only liquor bottles and beer cans, but those that held pop, other beverages, salad oil, personal care products, household cleaning products, milk, whatever. People think of it as a "good citizen" discount on beer.
In Ontario, the (Conservative) Mike Harris government entered into a "deal" with non-alcoholic beverage retailers, for a (small) one-time payment, cancelling the requirement for deposit/return arrangements with retailers. Everyone won except the taxpayers, the retail customers, and the environment.
Perhaps if cities were required to actually recycle all the materials they collect in their blue boxes/bins, some headway could be made.
OTOH, I've seen plenty of waterfronts here in Canada littered with plastics of all kinds. And my driveway as well, by passersby.
On top of that, we pay individual flat rates for those recycling bins, garbage bins and green bins. The latter are picked up weekly, the former two each bi-weekly. We also pay for removal of large objects whether we put any out or not; if it's metal, I call a local kid who sells it to a scrap-metal dealer. I compost everything compostable, no meat and no baby diapers here, so no green bin use. Smallest size garbage bin once every 8-10 weeks, smallest size recycling bin, every 4-6 weeks. The way I see it is I subsidize the waste removal of the big producers of waste.
And I'd have perhaps no quarrel with that, if the big water users were subsidizing my small water use, instead of the other way around. The same is true for electricity usage. If we wish to become a "conserver society," then we need to be fair about who pays for what, not subsidize the wastrels.
On top of that, apparently a lot of what is collected as "recycling" just isn't recycled.
So why did pay good money to I rinse out stuff that goes directly into the lake we get our drinking water from, from those bags and bottles that are going into landfill?
I'm not aware of privatized water services in Canada ... but I'd submit that a certain set amount should be allotted for each individual, free of charge. It is, after all, something we absolutely cannot live without. And neither should one's water be subject to being turned off, for inability to pay the bill within a short period of time after it's rendered. Or subject to additional charges till a month-end has passed since delivery of the bill. Many, many people live month to month, and you can't budget for a bill you don't yet have, and that keeps rising and rising.
I have the sinking feeling that the rates keep going up (and way faster than consumer price indeces), with a view to impending privatization.
When I first moved here, water, recycling and waste (pick up twice a week compared to once every two weeks now) were included in the property tax rates. Sidewalks were plowed in winter, streets and gutters were plowed in winter and swept-and-washed in summer. The taxes are twice now what they were then, and the workers on the front lines are paid less now than they were then. Go figure.

I have never in 65 years been in a house with water that stinks up a house with chlorine smell and turns plants yellow.

If you are referring to the sale of beer/liquor in Ontario grocery stores, my understanding is that was done under Kathleen Wynne's administration:
"Under Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, the province began licensing 450 supermarkets to sell wine, beer and sometimes even both. Under Premier Doug Ford, the number of rural LCBO “agency stores,” which sell wine, beer and spirits, has increased to nearly 400."