U of T bans bottled water sales


Following a move initiated by the University of Toronto two months ago, there will be a ban on the sale of bottled water on all three campuses. President David Naylor approved the proposal this past June, and the ban will take immediate effect at the St. George campus. U of T Mississauga and U of T Scarborough will phase out sales of bottled water, with a complete ban effective in 2014.

Bottled water has negative environmental impacts, as it is generally a single-use product, and if the plastic is discarded into a landfill it does not easily decay. As well, the plastic used to produce bottled water requires a significant amount of energy to transport and manufacture. Nor, usually, is there any benefit; our local groundwater resources—the same source as tap water—are often bottled and sold throughout the Peel and Halton regions, notably in cities such as Mississauga, Brampton, and Guelph.

Green alternatives include using drinking fountains or drinking tap water from a reusable container. The university has distributed stainless steel water bottles twice in the last year and has made improvements to the water fountains on campus, such as the new installation close to the Meeting Place in the Davis Building.

UTM is taking steps to upgrade the drinking fountain infrastructure on campus in order to ensure that the university is prepared to supply enough water to the entire population on campus. When the ban takes full effect in 2014, it will also coincide with the renegotiation of the next food service contract, which will exclude the sale of bottled water.

Environmental groups at UTM have worked diligently on recent campaigns to encourage the use of reusable bottles and tap water. Groups such as the UTMSU Ministry of the Environment, the Green Team, the Student Association for Geography and Environment Students, and the university’s Department of Geography have been calling for such a ban for years.

Brad Allen, an upper-year environment and geography student, has been dedicated to the cause and has advocated for improvements in the water infrastructure on campus.

“It is important that student activist organizations continue to apply pressure to the administration and keep the public informed of all updates,” said Allen.

The ban will be in effect in all U of T buildings all year, with the rare exception of emergencies in which a water advisory is issued by authorities. If that occurs, the sale of bottled water will be permitted during that time.

Many Canadian institutions have already taken steps towards becoming more environmentally responsible by instituting similar bans. By reducing and eventually eliminating the consumption of bottled water on campus, they seek to eliminate the stigma placed on tap water, which is safe and affordable, and requires fewer resources.

The University of Toronto is Canada’s 14th campus to commit to the ban of bottled water and elevate the promotion of public water infrastructure.

“Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right which thousands of Canadians and nearly a billion people worldwide are denied,” said Elly Adeland, the Campaigns Coordinator of the Polaris Institute. “The momentum on campuses across the country to back the tap should be applauded.”

OnTap Launch Day, a celebration to mark the return to tap water on campus, will be taking place on September 15, beginning at 1 p.m. at Willcocks Commons on the St. George campus.

  • Rohit Mehta

    Thank you to Nadine Nesbitt, Rahul Mehta, Brad Allen, and Antoinette Battaglia for their contributions to the article!