Stopping the flow of plastic pollution: Single-use plastic bottles eliminated at SFU

September 03, 2021
SFU has eliminated plastic water bottles and is now eliminating plastic pop and juice bottles as well.

Plastic pollution is everywhere. Plastics are found on our city streets, floating in our oceans, in the food we eat and even falling down on us as raindrops.

At SFU, we are stopping the flow of single-use plastic beverage bottles. In 2021, we eliminated plastic beverage bottles from campus dining and vending locations. It's estimated that this bold action will save at least 260,000 plastic bottles each year.

SFU not only is joining other leaders who have eliminated plastic water bottles, but we are taking a step further and eliminating plastic pop and juice bottles as well. Re-use for Good, a task force launched at SFU in 2019, continues to build initiatives to create a culture of reuse across SFU.

This decision to eliminate plastic beverage bottles was made in consultation with and with support from the SFU community. In preparation for this move, SFU recognized a need to increase the accessibility of water refill stations.

Ban the Bottle, a student club and member of the Re-use for Good task force, began working with Facilities Services in 2019 on this goal. Russell Dunsford, past Ban the Bottle President and recent Faculty of Environment graduate, led the review and subsequent recommendations for additional water refill locations, both indoor and outdoor.

“As part of eliminating plastic beverage bottles from campus, it was essential to ensure that water would still be accessible for everyone. Many fountains have already been put in place in areas which previously had limited access”, says Russell.

This student and staff collaboration not only resulted in increased access with a total of 168 water refill stations across all three campuses, and more to come in the future, but engaged students in tangible work to improve their community.

Mark McLaughlin, chief commercial services officer, SFU Ancillary Services, says, “SFU is not only taking a stand against plastic pollution but showing leadership by ensuring accessibility is a top priority.”

That is why Re-use for Good is working to make available a range of reusable products at no charge for community members who need them. Various types of straws of different materials, reusable cutlery and reusable water bottles are offered.

Serena Bains, SFU Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance (DNA) executive, says, “It is critical that any efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastics are done through the framework of climate justice, rather than environmentalism that causes harm to marginalized communities. Thus, collaborating with SFU Ancillary Services to apply a disability justice lens when removing single-use plastic bottles is essential for such a solution to be inclusive for all community members.”

In line with recommendations from SFU Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance (DNA), single-use plastic water bottles will also be available for purchase by request at SFU dining locations for those who need them – no questions asked.

Actions like this have a ripple effect throughout the community. Turn on the water tap, fill up your reusable water bottle and help SFU make waves against the rising tide of plastic pollution.