Plastic water bottles should be next ban 

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It's great to see all the activity at the government level on tackling plastic waste.

Locally, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) believes that plans at the federal level to ban single-use plastics will push forward Whistler's hopes to do the same.

That could mean we see plastic bags banned from the resort by summer's end. (There has been lots written about the pros and cons of banning plastic bags and moving to paper or reusable bags. But one thing you cannot escape is the fact that those plastic bags remain in our environment for decades. The federal government estimates that up to 15 billion plastic bags a year are given out.)

The RMOW banned the sale of bottled water at all the facilities it manages in 2012. But what we need now is a resort-wide ban of bottled water. And this week, it announced that it will put in bottle-filling stations at local parks and other community locations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this month that the federal government will ban "harmful, single-use plastics," such as grocery bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks, as soon as 2021.

According to research published in Science (Feb.13, 2015), about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste that starts on land ends up in the ocean every year. This is terrible enough, but a study by the Canadian federal government also found that only about nine per cent of the 3.2 million tonnes of plastic generated each year here is actually recycled. Here in Whistler, the RMOW's tracking of diversion (2016) shows that we manage to redirect about 50 per cent of materials from the landfill to recycling (this includes diversion to the Re-Build-It and Re-Use-It centres).

Nevertheless, the situation with plastic juice and water bottles confounds us. Two decades ago, this wasn't even a thing and now these bottles are ubiquitous!

In April, environmental organization Ocean Legacy Foundation reported that 1 million recyclable bottles and cans "go missing" every day in B.C. The organization analyzed data from the Brewers Recycled Container Collection Council and Encorp Pacific, the corporation in charge of container management, to compare bottles and cans sold with the number that are returned.

The foundation reported that about 387 million beverage containers, including items like plastic drink bottles and beer cans, didn't make it back into the province's regulated deposit refund system in 2017. It also found that an addition 2.3 million beverage container caps go missing every day and it recommended that producers be required to also collect and report on bottle-cap recycling.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment is reviewing the report. In a release, it said more than 1 billion containers are recycled under the Encorp program alone each year. (Encorp is part of B.C.'s extended producer responsibility program, which involves making large food retailers and consumer packaged-goods companies entirely responsible for the cost of recycling.)

If the sheer volume of water-bottle use is not enough to convince you to stop using them, consider research out of the University of Victoria, which found that if a person predominately takes in water through plastic water bottles rather than the tap, they would be consuming an additional 90,000 microplastic particles annually. A person who only drinks from the tap would only consume an additional 4,000 annually.

Through the research, the scientists found no microplastics in meat and vegetables. However, the food and drinks with the greatest amount of plastic were fish, shellfish, sugar additives, salts, beer, and bottled water.

Scientists and activists have been speaking about this issue and the proliferation of bottled water for years now, but it feels like the reality is finally gaining traction.

Consumers have power in this equation.

Do not buy plastic bottled drinks, ever.

If you see visitors buying bottled water, tell them they can enjoy our fresh, cold water right out of the tap in Whistler.

We can vote with our wallets on this one—let's do it.


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