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Not long after announcing his city’s intention to ban single-use plastic bags by 2018, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre has indicated that banning plastic-bottled water may be next.

Bottled water has long been decried for its heavy environmental footprint. Not only is it unnecessary where safe and effective municipal systems exist, plastic bottles create an enormous amount of waste. The costs of disposing of and recycling bottles falls largely on municipalities as opposed to producers. These producers often pay next to nothing to extract the water from local aquifers (thereby contributing to their depletion) despite make huge profits from bottling and selling it. The manufacturing and transportation of plastic bottles creates greenhouse gas emissions.

Many municipalities in Canada have limited bans on the sale of bottled water, usually in the form of bans from municipal administrative buildings, facilities, or events. None have seemingly gone so far as to ban their sale entirely from within a municipality.

Banning bottled water is a smart, but notably a difficult, environmental move.

Such a ban might be more smoothly introduced alongside (re)introduction of clean and available public drinking fountains, which seem to have all but disappeared from public spaces over the last several years.

Needless to say, Montreal will be under heavy industry pressure not to proceed with such a ban (and indeed, producers have already been busy lining up lobbyists to assist in these efforts).

However, it seems like a move in the right direction—perhaps a first step towards broader changes that will reduce our over-reliance on single-use containers and lead us towards more sustainable options.

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