In a surprising move last month, Mayor Denis Coderre of Montreal, a metropolis in Canada, announced that he intended on making plans to ban single-use water bottles from being sold in the city. In a not-as-surprising move, corporations like Coke and Pepsi announced that they intend to fight the ban, should plans for it continue.
The Mayor made the announcement following a ban on plastic bags that is set to become effective in 2018, and said, “I raised the subject of plastic water bottles because it’s an environmental nuisance — more than 700 million of these single-use bottles end up in Quebec’s landfills every year.” Considering Montreal itself has a population of 1.5 million people, it’s not too shocking that 700 million plastic bottles alone end up in the province of Quebec’s landfills.
If the ban were to go through, Montreal would be the first major city to prohibit plastic bottles. Though San Francisco and Hamburg, Germany have both recently banned the sale of water bottles, the ban only restricts the sales in city buildings. Smaller towns in Australia and Massachusetts have also placed a ban on bottles, but their collective population is just over 20,000.
The announcement has already garnered backlash and criticism, namely from The Quebec Bottled Water Association and The Canadian Beverage Association, which represents over 60 brands such as Pepsi, Coke, and Nestlé.
Both have been quick to offer reasons that plastic water bottles shouldn’t be banned and alternative solutions, but the associations seem to be grasping at straws. Dimitri Fraeys, the Vice President of Innovation and Economic Affairs for The Quebec Bottled Water Association, said, “Water isn’t the only thing in plastic bottles — juice and carbonated drinks are also in plastic bottles. Drinking water is healthy. Why ban just the water bottles?” He went on to ask, “If I put myself in the shoes of tourists who come to Montreal and there are no water bottles — what will they drink?”
Fraeys is essentially saying that the city should ban all or none and is likely counting on the fact that the city is less likely to ban all single-use bottles, so the Mayor may decide to not ban any bottles. As for the comment on tourism, the lack of water bottles isn’t likely to affect the number of tourists, and if they are concerned about it, the city could then research ways to make water fountains more readily available for those with refillable water bottles.
One person told Global News, “I would rather have a plastic bottle for my child than a glass one to be honest.” The reality is that not all refillable water bottles are made of glass; in fact, people can purchase reusable water bottles that are still made of plastic. This alternative would prove to be very cost and waste-effective.
Both of the associations have said that increased recycling would be a more practical solution, but the fact of the matter is that it would have a significantly smaller positive impact on the environment. The fossil fuels used to create the millions of plastic bottles that the city goes through each year would still be used and it’s estimated that in areas with recycling, 6 out of 7 bottles consumed are still not recycled.
Mayor Coderre adds, “In Montreal, we are lucky to have excellent tap water, which is tested several times per day. We tend to forget that our water is of such good quality, that some companies even bottle it directly and then people find themselves paying for it.” Additionally, a local environmental advocacy organization said that the tests run daily show that the tap water is often healthier than bottled water, especially “because you don’t know how long the water was sitting” in the bottle before you consumed it.