Should water bottles be banned?

At Monday’s Council meeting Petra Hartwig and Gigi Ludorf-Weaver asked Council to do three things: 1) declare that water and sanitation services are fundamental human rights, 2) ban bottled water in municipal facilities and municipal events and 3) install outside water bottle filling stations strategically placed around the Town. Councillor Nicole Beatty showed support by drinking from a flask and Mayor John Henderson pointed out that Victoria Hall had already replaced two drinking fountains with bottle filling stations. Petra and Gigi were primarily representing the Blue Communities Organization but were also representing the Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Sustainable Cobourg and Blue Dot.  Petra and Gigi pointed to the enormous profits made by water bottlers who anyway often used municipal water.

Water and Sanitation as Human Rights

Petra Hartwig and Gigi Ludorf-Weaver
Petra Hartwig and Gigi Ludorf-Weaver

Their presentation said that:

Water is essential to life – no one should be able to control it or exploit it for profit. The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, accessible water for personal and household use. The human right to sanitation would ensure that everyone has access to toilets or latrines that provide privacy and a safe and dignified environment that is physically accessible, affordable and culturally sensitive.

Why Ban Bottled Water? [A selection of points made]

  • It represents a private takeover of the water commons. Corporations take free-flowing water from its natural state – or, sometimes, treated municipal water – put it in plastic bottles, and sell it at exorbitant rates
  • Aquafina admits using municipal water systems in Mississauga and Vancouver
  • In the United States, scientific evidence suggests almost 50% of bottled water comes from municipalities
  • Bottling plants are inspected on average only once every three years!
  • In Cobourg, Lakefront Utilities Services staff collect samples weekly.  Cobourg has been forward thinking in using the process of Osmosis in our water systems – a more sustainable practice.
  • The bottled water industry requires massive amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport
  • in 2009, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), voted in favour of a resolution to encourage all Canadian cities to phase out the sale and provision of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.

What replaces bottled water?

In Cobourg, Town employees and residents can use bottles that would be refilled from “bottle filling stations”.  Petra estimated the cost at “roughly $3,500 to $4,500 per unit plus installation”.  She also mentioned that another benefit would be fewer plastic bottles in landfills.

Council referred the issue to the Environmental & Climate Change Advisory Committee.


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28 March 2019 1:09 pm

Great idea!!

22 March 2019 8:35 am

why would they go to landfill? THEY ARE RECYCLABLE!

Merry Mary
Reply to  Geo.
22 March 2019 12:39 pm

My question as well, Geo, given that the majority of people recycle all types of plastics and several wonderful new poducts are created through “cottage industries?”

Reply to  Geo.
22 March 2019 3:35 pm

Geo I hope you’re attempting to be funny….[insert forced laugh] Why do smokers throw cigarette butts on the ground when a receptacle is two feet away? Why are the roadsides littered with, well….litter? Why don’t most people recycle and compose 100% of those things that are recyclable or compostable at home? Sometimes we have to engineer the common sense out of a process due to the lack of common sense….

Seems like a small “sacrifice”

Reply to  Rob
23 March 2019 8:16 am

was not being funny! that is up to the individual to be responsible? with your theory, if we ban cars, then there would be NO MORE car accidents? if you want to complain about something, you should complain about ALL the STYROFOAM that we DO NOT RECYCLE & goes to landfill, where it takes 500 yrs. to decompose!

Jim Thomas
21 March 2019 8:55 pm

I would like to hear how these people reconcile their two contradictory statements:
“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, accessible water for personal and household use”
“…encourage all Canadian cities to phase out the sale and provision of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.”

Reply to  Jim Thomas
23 March 2019 10:10 am

Beware of “Nestle”. They want to control as much of the worlds fresh water as they can. The same goes for “Monsanto” who want to control the worlds seed supply. The 2 companies will then join forces to manipulate and control world food supply. Its about time local/provincial/federal government stepped in to protect the country.

21 March 2019 2:56 pm

I love this idea. Those horrible plastic bottles cost a lot of money and energy to recycle into … Oh wait, more horrible plastic water bottles! We have safe drinking water in our town so carry an aluminum bottle, better for your health, and drink it. While we are at it please let’s ban horrible plastic drinking straws.

Reply to  Elaine
25 March 2019 10:21 am

And I assume the person who voted this down is at Walmart right now buying a case of bottled water.

21 March 2019 1:47 pm

I find the first statement about fluffy and overreaching at best for the Municipality. I support the Town banning bottled water in the places, spaces and events that are within their sphere of control. I do think that bottle fillers should be made available in the park, beach, Victoria Hall, arenas, community centers and gymnasiums and elsewhere is reasonable – signage would also be required. This is the future fellow Cobourgians like or lump it. We are systematically destroying our planet and although this is a small step it is in the right direction and every journey starts with a single step. I would also completely support retrofitting all Municipal buildings with solar panels and make the installation of the same mandatory on all new commercial/industrial facilities and any new Municipal buildings.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Rob
21 March 2019 2:46 pm

How much fuel is burned to make the energy to manufacture solar panels? How are they recyclable? How will the toxic material in solar panels be disposed? Forbes:

Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 March 2019 3:54 pm

Wally – what does capitalist Forbes magazine claim to be better alternative – nuclear? coal? Nothing is completely without consequence. How much environment and ecological damage done as a result of hydro generation, tidal or wind? Perhaps the ability to recycle solar panels is a business opportunity yet to be tapped…maybe in the future Forbes will have an article about a young entrepreneur who invented a means to recycle or repurpose expired solar panels.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Rob
21 March 2019 8:54 pm

Personally I’d go nuclear; emissions-free. Forbes is quite likely to publish and promote such an entrepreneur. I wouldn’t sneer at capitalism, the greatest generator of wealth the world has ever known. Given the caveat that the Forbes article presents, I don’t think it wise to make it “mandatory on all new commercial/industrial facilities and any new Municipal buildings.” It’s one thing to care about the environment, it’s another to do so smartly. What would be the town’s plan for their disposal? Here’s caveat from National Geographic.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 March 2019 2:06 pm

If you consider radioactive-waste ’emissions-free’ which it isn’t of course because we have to store them in some cave somewhere perhaps near Georgian bay; hoping that there isn’t a catastrophe that allows the bay waters to seep into the cave/bunker and the now liquid waste head out back into the bay. Nuthin is for FREE. AND don’t look to capitalism to solve issues unless there is a profit to be made.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  gerinator
23 March 2019 2:51 pm

Learn something about nuclear energy, gerinator:

manfred s
21 March 2019 12:26 pm

remember the old western movies? Their solution was that everybody carried a canteen. Seems we’re closing in on a full circle… our real problem is our insatiable demand for unbridled personal convenience…

the solution… charge enough for those conveniences to collect sufficient resources to deal with and correct whatever damages we cause through providing those conveniences… truly justified user-pay, to provide full remediation

Wally Keeler
21 March 2019 11:49 am

38 creative ways to utilize plastic water bottle.

21 March 2019 11:37 am

If you have a water tap…buy a thermos…stop asking the town of Cobourg to supply everything to everybody…and while we are at it, why don’t the arty people pay for their own art gallery and take the $250,000 or so per year that is granted and put it into affordable housing where it will do more good.

I don’t know of too many towns of 19,000 population that have a town supported art gallery.

21 March 2019 10:33 am

If you are against bottled water, don’t buy it. Simple as that.

Walter L. Luedtke
21 March 2019 10:01 am

Thank Heavens we have a publicly-owned utility which supplies us with safe, well-tasting water.
Unlike the UK where many utilities have been privatized and are being run for profit.
“England’s running out of water – and privatisation is to blame.”

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
21 March 2019 8:38 pm

But what are day-trippers to Cobourg to use to carry a supply of our safe, well-tasting (sic) water in? They can’t put it into their pocket or purse, hence the need for bottles of some kind.
Furthermore, if I repurpose a plastic bottle that contained water when I bought it years ago by refilling it from the tap over and over, will I be excoriated if I appear down at the park with such an obscene, destructive item in my hand?

Old Sailor
21 March 2019 9:32 am

On the water issue it sounds like Cobourg is already managing the “safe, sufficient and accessible” concerns. Not sure how we determine whether a toilet is “culturally sensitive”? Do we leave a questionnaire for the toilets to complete and sign in each washroom?

These sound like provincial issues not small town issues. Unless we want to add a new wing of town defence attorneys at Victoria Hall.

Mrs. Anonymous
21 March 2019 8:53 am

I would not agree that a total ban is the answer, but I would agree that our society needs to reduce these single use water bottles significantly. The amount of waste generated for bottled water is repugnant.

Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
21 March 2019 10:31 am

why only single out 1 industry
pop & juice bottles are just as plentiful as water bottles as are the plastic cups
straws etc

Jim Thomas
Reply to  perplexed
21 March 2019 8:41 pm

Plus margarine tubs, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream and more, albeit these are not generally carried out into the streets and then tossed aside there.

21 March 2019 8:37 am


Reply to  perplexed
21 March 2019 12:11 pm

Once people get into the habit of carrying their own bottles around, they have no need to buy water at events. My refillable bottle goes with me everywhere!

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  Sarah
21 March 2019 12:52 pm

Some local events which controlled admission used to not permit people to bring in their own water or beverage containers. This caught the attention of Town Council of the day and a policy was created that any event which used public facilities including parks had to provide free access to drinking water.
For waterfront festival weekend there was an experiment to bring in a water bottle filling mobile station. Victoria Park used to have a drinking fountain for years, located surrounded by grass and under the shade of big trees … I remember it as a kid.
Water bottle filling stations are a great idea. Locations need careful thought.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
21 March 2019 2:50 pm

I recall that old water fountain. It was a great place to load water pistols. It was located under a whack of trees as you stated. There is a drain at the location where the fountain had been.

Mrs. J.
21 March 2019 8:31 am

So in those unfortunate times of an extreme NATURAL DISASTER, how would water be distributed to those in desperate need of water, an essential necessity to life?!?!

20 March 2019 1:19 pm

How long will bottle refilling station last outside ? We all know they will get screwed up
People should just recycle plastic bottles

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Mark
21 March 2019 3:00 am

I agree. What about people who want fresh bottled water from the aquifers under the Oak Ridges moraine, free of chlorine, fluorine and such? We can’t have it, just because a certain portion of humanity is too stupid to recycle their plastic containers?

Reply to  Jim Thomas
21 March 2019 10:17 am

Just for info since you raised the old fluoride bogeyman, Cobourg does not add fluoride to the water even though naturally occurring fluoride is about a tenth of the level recommended by Health authorities.

Reply to  Mark
21 March 2019 8:08 am

“Should” but many don’t. You will see many plastic bottles in garbage bins at events.