London, Ontario Bans Bottled Water Sales on City Property: Movement Set to Grow?

In a move that must have ruined the mornings of bottled water executives all across North America, the city of London, Ontario (Canada) banned bottled water sales on city property.

The critical issue here isn’t the ban; it’s the industry’s response. But more on that in a second. First, the story:

A decision by the largest Canadian city yet to ban bottled water could see a tide of other cities making the same move, says a city councilor leading the push to get rid of bottles here in Vancouver.

Citing environmental concerns and a need to promote city tap water, the city council in London, Ont., voted this week to ban bottled water from its properties.

“I think this is going to continue right across the country,” said Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson.

Staff at the City of Vancouver have also been looking at ways of eliminating the sale of bottled water and increasing the number of drinking fountains around the city.

How does Nestle Water of Canada respond? In a statement so ironic it’s gained instant “Hall of Fame” status here at StopNestleWaters.org, their spokesperson called it “greenwashing.”

But one industry rep says a ban in Vancouver would be political “green washing.”

“It’s quite frankly environmental symbolism and it doesn’t result in meaningful progress in terms of the environment or health,” said John Challinor, director of corporate affairs for Nestle Waters Canada, which holds a 35-per-cent share in the Canadian bottled water market.

It’s tempting to write Challinor off as simply a paid corporate flack, but his statement is worth examining.

After all, there are few bigger experts on greenwashing than a Nestle executive, and we tend to agree that London’s ban hasn’t really resulted in the kind of “meaningful progress in terms of the environment or health” we’d like to see.

What would constitute meaningful progress?

How about municipal bans on bottled water purchases across North America?

Now that – my dear readers – is exactly the kind of progress Mr. Challinor was no doubt referring to.

After all, buying bottled water is a wasteful use of taxpayer money, especially when the stuff runs largely for free out of the tap, and taxpayer dollars typically subsidize landfill operations – where anywhere from 75%-85% of Nestle’s plastic bottles end up.

We’d like to thank Mr. Challinor for his unique insight. With any luck, we’ll see more “meaningful progress” soon.

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