Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How far off is the death of bottled water?

The proliferation of bottled water into all aspects of our lives has possibly been the greatest success of capitalism of the last twenty years. This billion-dollar industry is as ludicrous as the idea of bottling and selling air, while turning a massive profit.

But that is exactly what has been done. People love their bottled water: by the case full, by the single bottle, or by the water cooler. This, despite the fact that bottled water is actually more expensive than gasoline.

It seems, though, that times are changing. Could bottled water be on its way out? Students at Ryerson and across Canada through the Canadian Federation of Students have been working with groups like the Polaris Institute for a few years to build a campaign to kick bottled water to history’s curb.

And it seems to be catching on. London City Council has approved a ban on bottled water in city-run facilities. According to today's Globe and Mail, the move was extremely popular among citizens, and city officials are going to ensure water fountains make their way to the newly dry facilities. Columnist Paul Berton for the London Free Press wrote today that this move is also being contemplated by Kitchener, Charlottetown, St. John's, Vancouver and Nelson, B.C. In fact, David Millar said that Toronto City Council will be contemplating a similar move before November.

City politicians, citizens of London, students across Canada, the Council of Canadians and Pierre Trudeau's son all support limiting the use of bottled water. With so many people on side, who could be opposed?

Other than those crazies at the Maclean's-supported Western Standard, it seems that the only organised source of criticism is coming from the Canadian refreshment industry. In anticipation of the vote, the group sent out a press release arguing that limiting bottled water is not the right solution to London's waste problems.

Their arguments are hardly enough to save this fleeting industry (bottled water is good because the bottles can be made into vests?). The bottled water industry is in trouble, and now more than ever is the time for pressure to be mounted.

Next up… plastic bags.

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