McGill phasing out plastic water bottles in push for greater sustainability

McGill University's Office of Sustainability says it will phase out single-use, plastic water bottles over the next 14 months. It will also install 25 to 30 new water fountains and improve existing ones for students and staff to more easily fill up their reusable bottles.

Single-use bottled water will no longer be sold on McGill campuses by May 2019, university says

McGill says it currently sells about 85,000 plastic water bottles every year and thousands more are distributed at special events. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

Plastic water bottles will soon be a thing of the past at McGill, as the university plans to phase out the sale of bottled water on its campuses over the next 14 months.

Non-carbonated bottled water will no longer be sold in vending machines and anywhere food is sold on McGill's downtown and Macdonald campuses by May 2019, the university said on Friday.

The move aims to "raise awareness about the negative social and environmental impacts of bottled water."

François Miller, director of the McGill Office of Sustainability, told CBC News he was "convinced" the move has popular support at the school.

He said McGill currently sells around 85,000 single-use, plastic water bottles every year and thousands more are distributed during special events.

François Miller, director of the McGill Office of Sustainability, says the plan to phase has popular support at the university. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

"We think that by phasing out those bottles over the course of the next 14 months, it will have a large impact on McGill's sustainability in general," Miller said.

New water fountains

McGill said it wants to provide better access to tap water to compensate for the phase out.

It plans to install 25 to 30 new water fountains on both campuses and improve existing ones to give students, staff and visitors more places to fill up their reusable water bottles.

The project is expected to cost $150,000, Miller said. 

That money will come out of McGill's Sustainability Fund, which is financed through student fees and the school's administration.

McGill says it will improve existing water fountains and build 25 new ones as part of the $150,000 project. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

McGill student Antonia Butler said she always has a refillable water bottle with her.

She said it will be great to have more water fountains on campus. "It's nice that they're conveniently located everywhere," she told CBC News.

Making campus more sustainable

McGill stopped selling bottled water in the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) building and in residential dining halls in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Sayeef Mohammed, a mechanical engineering student at McGill, said getting rid of plastic water bottles campus-wide is "a great initiative in trying to make [it] more sustainable."

Bottled water is "a luxury that is completely unnecessary," Mohammed told CBC News.

"I don't think we need to waste money and energy on extracting plastics and making plastic bottles and then burning more fossil fuels to transport billions of tons of water bottles."

Student Sayeef Mohammed said plastic water bottles are an 'unnecessary luxury.' (Navneet Pall/CBC)

With files from Navneet Pall