Opinion » Editorial

Time to stop bottled water sales

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Summer is right around the corner, honestly.

And with the warm weather comes the inevitable purchase by some of water in a plastic bottle.

But don't do it!

Please, please use your own water bottle and enjoy the valley's fresh, clean water.

People around the world throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. It is estimated that over 80 per cent of all single-use water bottles used in the U.S. simply become litter. Not only that, because of the type of plastic sometimes used, only one out of five bottles can be sent to the recycle bin. It is estimated that it actually takes three litres of water to package one litre of bottled water.

It is worth a cool $15 billion a year with Nestlé's 18 brands leading the way in the packaged water industry.

In fact, according to a website called banthebottle.net, making water bottles uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.4 million cars or power 190,000 homes for a year.

Scientists and activists have been speaking about this issue and the proliferation of bottled water for years now — and we have all seen images of the garbage islands floating in our oceans and the tremendous plastic litter on the beaches of remote islands — some of them not even inhabited.

You can often pick out the water bottles in these images.

How has this all come to pass? How has the consumption of "mineral" waters for health benefits in the late 1700s turned into an everyday occurrence? I mean just cast your mind back to the '80s — do you even remember seeing bottled water for sale?

Today, sales of bottled water are outpacing any other bottled beverage. National Geographic reports that: "Americans now drink astonishing amounts of bottled water: In 2015, we bought the equivalent of 1.7 billion half-litre bottles of water every week. That's more than five bottles of water for every man, woman, and child in the country every single week. A typical family of four is going through one of those shrink-wrapped 24-packs of bottled water each week."

Americans today drink more bottled water than milk or beer.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the amount of bottled water sold through stores keeps increasing and surpassed 2.4 billion litres, according to Euromonitor International (2015), with Nestlé controlling 30 per cent of the market here.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler banned the sale of bottled water at all the facilities it manages in 2012. A great first step.

And currently there is a petition online launched by Whistlerite Steve Andrews asking for the ban to go even further.

"We, the citizens and visitors to this mountain paradise, wish to set an example to the world to show that in places where clean water is abundant that plastic water bottles are not welcome," says Andrews on his Change.org petition.

"With millions of visitors every year, Whistler has a unique position to educate visitors on making a conscious shift toward reusable containers. The shift can be easy, but we need support from local government to get rid of the temptations for convenience at the expense of the environment. Many other communities have already set the precedent, and hopefully Whistler can be part of the change toward a more sustainable future. This is one important step in that direction."

Sign the petition and make a conscious decision not to buy bottled water in particular — but also consider not buying beverages whose containers cannot be fully recycled.

Another part of this equation is the decision by our political leaders to sell water to corporations like Nestlé in the first place.

According to Rabble.ca, 83 per cent of Canada's bottled water exports come from British Columbia.

B.C.'s charges Nestlé $2.25 per million litres for the water it pumps out of the ground in B.C. Compare that to the $70 per million litres that Quebec assesses its industrial users, and up to $140 per million litres that Nova Scotia charges, and the $46.25 per million litres Saskatchewan charges — all still a drop in the bucket.

Perhaps we should consider halting the sale of B.C. water to bottling companies. Surely, that is the right move in the long run. How can bottling the public's water for private profit be in the public's interest?

So, cherish the water you enjoy every day, protect it where you can, don't waste it and carry your H2O in a multi-use bottle.

Editor's Note: A couple of weeks ago Pique was proud to announce the success we had in both provincial and national newspaper awards. This week, we learned that Pique took another first for Best Environmental Writing at the Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for contributor Alison Taylor's feature "Weaving Whistler's Web of Life," (July 31, 2016) and third for Best Arts Writing for arts editor Cathryn Atkinson's weekly section.

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