CUPE National Environment Committee Co-chair Rob Coelho from Local 3904 stepped into the debating ring at Ryerson University to argue for the benefits of public tap water over bottled water. The debate entitled “Bottle Politics: The Bottled Water Controversy” was part of Ryerson University’s Ethics at Ryerson Speaking Series. Coelho debated Chris Gibbs from the Ted Rogers Institute for Tourism and Hospitality Research. Over two-hundred students, academics and activists attended the event.
Coelho made a strong case for the tap over the bottle by focusing on environmental and public access to drinking water issues. Environmentally, bottled water has enormous and indefensible impacts that Coelho effectively summarized in his presentation. Bottled water generates huge amounts of plastic waste linked to landfill problems and soil contamination from leaching plastics. The bottles are derived from fossil fuels. As well, the vast bottled water shipping networks emit greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
Coelho also warned listeners that climate change is disrupting precipitation patterns, glacial water supplies and fresh water levels worldwide, all of which strain the fresh water supply of an already scarce resource. The solution is certainly not more exploitation of water for private profit.
Municipal water is also much more closely monitored than bottled water, leading to higher water quality standards for tap water. Add to this that bottled water is sometimes just tap water sold as spring water and the clear ethical and environmental choice is to avoid the bottle altogether and drink public tap water instead.