Group challenges bottled water bans on campus

International lobby group believes activism misguided

Bring back the bottled water: Lobbyist group Independent Bottled Water Association says student activism banning the sale of bottled water on campus is misguided. Dylan Hewlett

Can a YouTube video stop student activism against bottled water?

The Independent Bottled Water Association (IBWA), who posted a video on their YouTube channel vilifying campus opposition to the sale of bottled water, seems to think so.

“I’m not knocking college students, but many of these groups aren’t taking the time or aren’t interested in learning all the facts before they decide to have an opinion,” said Chris Hogan, IBWA vice-president of communications.

The video, titled Student Activism 101, puts bottled water up against other student movements, such as racial equality, and says that it’s not worth such opposition.

The IBWA is a lobbyist group for the sale of bottled water. They claim to be the authority on information about all types of bottled waters, with membership that includes international bottlers, distributors and suppliers.

The organization claims that bottled water only accounts for 0.03 per cent of all waste in landfills. Among other arguments, the video also mentions bottled water is heavily regulated by the FDA and that bottled water has not been linked to any illnesses, unlike tap water.

The video also takes aim at other bottled drinks like Pepsi and Coke.

“They’re both made with plastic; why get rid of the healthiest thing on the shelf?” the video asks.

“We made the video to address some talking points to start a conversation. That’s why we’re doing this, to clear the air,” Hogan said.

Water is a basic human right that shouldn’t be sold. Pepsi isn’t. People don’t need Pepsi to live.

Lauren Bosch, president, UWSA

Lauren Bosc, president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, said students wanted the bottled water ban, and that there are plenty of reasons to restrict its sale.

“The bottles they use can’t be recycled, they can only be downcycled,” she said.

“They can be used to make carpets and other things, but can’t be used for anything else. Also, water is a basic human right that shouldn’t be sold. Pepsi isn’t. People don’t need Pepsi to live.”

UWSA records show the election that stopped the sale of bottled water had the highest turnout of voters.

The University of Manitoba does not have a campus-wide ban on the sale of bottled water, but the student commons has implemented one. The university’s large campus and older pipe system has kept the plan from going through.

Alan Diduck, an environmental studies professor at the University of Winnipeg, says there is an environmental impact to bottled water that can’t be fixed.

“It is pretty clear from life cycle and ecological footprint analyses that collective water delivery systems have lower total and per capita environmental impacts than do bottled water delivery systems,” Diduck said.

“A key is that collective systems have to be well planned; they need to be safe, efficient, effective and fair.”

The FDA only regulates the safety of the water itself, but the organization does not cover the environmental impacts of bottling and disposing of the bottles, he said.

The IBWA is planning to re-launch their website and make more videos.

Published in Volume 66, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 7, 2012)

Related Reads