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Join in as we phase out single-use plastic water bottles

January 20, 2021
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By Teghan Acres

As 2020 ended, so too did the prevalence of single-use plastic water bottles on Simon Fraser University’s campuses.

Now, the SFU Re-use for Good initiative wants you to bring your reusable plastic water bottle to campus.

Re-use for Good, which works to implement and promote reusable alternatives to single-use plastics and disposable products (SUPPs), is leading the phase-out in response to students’ concerns and calls for action. The student club Ban the Bottle and allies have been collaborating with Re-use for Good to create an environment where everyone has access to clean, high-quality water without using single-use plastic water bottles.

Mark McLaughlin, Chief Commercial Services Officer, Ancillary Services, says, "The impetus for this initiative has come from passionate students wanting to make a positive difference at SFU. By combining their collaborative approach with administration, we have collectively succeeded in finding a way to eliminate the sale of single-use plastic bottles on our campuses while at the same time sending a strong message to the beverage industry that single-use plastics are no-longer acceptable."

Single-use plastics are harmful to people and to the planet and, in the case of water bottles, have many reusable alternatives. Over one million single-use cups and plastic bottles are discarded each year at SFU. While these may go into the recycling bin, research reveals that only about nine per cent of plastics are recycled in Canada. To add to the issue, plastic production and water-bottling industries can have negative impacts on neighbouring communities. Switching to sustainable consumption methods, including reusable bottles, puts pressure on these industries to change their waste practices and attitudes.

To prepare for the phase-out, the Re-use for Good task force and Ban the Bottle worked with SFU Facilities Services to install additional water-refill stations around our campuses. B.C. tap water is some of the best in the world and it’s available for free at SFU. While the water fountains for sipping water are currently deactivated to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols, touchless bottle-refill taps remain accessible in all buildings.

Phasing out single-use plastic water bottles was planned in consultation with the SFU Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance (DNA), Simon Fraser Student Society and the Graduate Student Society. Single-use plastics, including water bottles, are critical for meeting the needs of some disabled community members. The Re-use for Good committee is fulfilling sustainability goals while ensuring water is available to all by keeping plastic water bottles available for purchase by request at dining locations, with no questions asked. As well, reusable water bottles appropriate for a variety of accessibility needs will be available at key locations on campus in the future.

Serena Bains, Accessibility Liaison for Re-use for Good, says, “The most important part of making changes that affect a specific community is to prioritize ‘nothing about us, without us.’ Since this change directly affects disabled people, we ensured that meaningful consultation took place before making any changes.”

The SFU community can get involved by resolving to bring reusable water bottles to campus when activities resume, and by sharing the good news.

Reusable water bottles

On campus, reusable water bottles are for sale at the SFU Spirit Shop and in vending machines on Burnaby campus.