With increasing concerns about the environmental, health, and economic costs of bottled water, GreenUP’s BlueWptbo program reduces the demand for bottled water and provides easy access to drinking water in the Greater Peterborough area.
In Canada, sales of bottled water are predicted to reach almost $5.8 billion CAD in 2022. The environmental costs are much higher. It is estimated that only 14 per cent of water bottles in Ontario are recycled, leaving the other 86 per cent in landfills, lakes, rivers, and oceans.
Despite only being used for an hour or so, these bottles can take nearly 500 years to break down. When they break down, the microplastics are released into soil and water and get distributed through entire ecosystems.
Microplastics have been found in the digestive tracts of many animals. Humans consume up to 5 grams of microplastics per week, the equivalent of eating a plastic credit card. Microplastics contain chemicals which can lead to adverse health effects in animals that consume them, including cancer and reproductive disorders. Pathogens and bacteria that can lead to the spread of disease have also been found on the surface of microplastics, posing another risk for the health of humans and other animals.
BlueWptbo.ca is a community resource that reduces our dependence on single-use plastic water bottles. BlueWptbo connects residents of the Greater Peterborough Area to clean, free, public sources of municipal tap water.
Users of BlueWptbo.ca have access to a map that easily locates taps to fill their reusable water bottles. With over 80 participating tap locations in the Greater Peterborough Area, BlueWptbo aims to make drinking water accessible throughout the region.
Want to win a BlueWptbo water bottle? Post a photo of your reusable bottle at a participating BlueWptbo location on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! Tag @ptbogreenup and use #BlueWptbo to be entered to win our monthly draw!
“Personally, I’m kind of obsessed with not using plastic, and think plastic water bottles are the bane of a restaurant’s existence” says Yannick Thirair, co-owner of The Night Kitchen. “We don’t sell plastic water bottles here.”
The federal government’s plan to prohibit the sale of single-use plastics by the end of 2023 does not include water bottles. Canadian legislators claim they will transition away from a fossil-fuel-based economy toward renewable energy, and yet retain plastic water bottles. Things like plastic water bottles are reliant on fossil fuels for their raw material. You can fill about a quarter of a plastic water bottle with the oil used to manufacture that bottle.
“It’s important to educate the public that tap water is free and safe to drink,” continues Thirair from the Night Kitchen. “And we also want to support people who come by bike or on foot to come in and get some water.”
Many reusable water bottles weigh less than a smartphone and provide the least expensive way to get fresh water on the go. Bottled water can cost $2.50 or more per 500ml, whereas Peterborough Utilities tap water costs tenths of a cent per litre.
Why buy water at a 2,400 per cent markup in a wasteful single-use bottle when you can enjoy clean, fresh water from the tap in your reusable bottle? Throwing a bottle in your bag before leaving the house and using BlueWptbo to locate taps near you is the most cost-effective way to hydrate yourself on the go!
Bottled water impacts extend into other areas of social justice too by contributing to inequalities in areas impacted by water scarcity. There are currently 34 long-term drinking water advisories on public systems, 29 of them on Indigenous reserves. In 2018, Nestlé was found to have extracted millions of litres of water from Canadian Indigenous communities that do not have access to clean drinking water.
In the Six Nations reserve 90 minutes outside of Toronto, Nestlé offers no compensation to the Six Nations for the water the corporation extracts yet Nestlé pays the province of Ontario $503.71 per million litres. Consumers have an important role to play in stopping these large corporations from harming our environment and communities. By refusing bottled water and bringing your own bottle you reduce the demand for bottled water.
A common misconception is that bottled water is healthier and safer than tap water. Peterborough Utilities Commission meets or exceeds the government’s requirements for water testing.
“Since 1914 Peterborough Utilities has been providing safe, reliable, and consistently high-quality water from source to tap,” says David Whitehouse, vice-president of customer and corporate services and conservation at Peterborough Utilities Group.
“When you find yourself away from your home tap, BlueWptbo can help you access tap water from other places around the city, maintaining a constant flow of refreshing and cold tap water, even when your water bottle is empty.”
Peterborough Utilities conducts over 20,000 water tests annually to ensure the drinking water they distribute is of the highest quality. Bottled water companies do not have to follow the same stringent requirements.
A recent study done by Brunel University found that bottles made with recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) leak higher concentrations of chemicals into their contents than those with new PET. Chemical contaminants from PET include bisphenol A, an endocrine disrupter that can cause cancer, reproductive disorders and cardiovascular disorder. With companies like Nestlé using 12 per cent recycled PET in their bottles and committing to increase recycled PET to 50 per cent by 2025, this becomes a health concern.
When considering a reusable water bottle, your first choice should be the one you already have. Consuming more also increases your carbon footprint so if you have a water bottle in the back of your cupboard, dig it out and put it to use! If you don’t have a bottle or your bottle is not ideal for your lifestyle, consider the environment and shop sustainably. The life cycle of a reusable water bottle is important to consider.
Where was it made, and with what materials? Stainless steel and glass water bottles are longer-lasting options that can also be recycled when they can no longer be used.
For more information about the BlueWptbo program, BlueWptbo.ca or contact program co-ordinator Natalie Stephenson: [email protected] or 705-745-3238 ext. 223
BlueWptbo.ca was launched in 2016 in conjunction with Peterborough Utilities Group. Powered by BlueW.org’s mapping system, BlueWptbo establishments join the over 27,000 tap locations participating around the globe!
Emily Twomey is a program assistant with Green Economy Peterborough.