Bye-bye plastic, hello boxed water In an effort to promote sustainability and healthy active living, Union Market has phased out plastic water bottles

By: Saad Ejaz

In an effort to engage in more sustainable practices, the McMaster Students Union has stopped selling plastic water bottles this month, while pushing for boxed water cartons and re-usable water bottles.

Originally proposed as part of Justin Monaco-Barnes’ MSU presidential campaign, the union is further developing existing initiatives to make the MSU more sustainable.

“Roughly 41 per cent of universities in Ontario have switched to a model where it’s single use plastic water bottle free… and we thought we would do the same as it is a pretty significant step in the right direction,” said Monaco-Barnes.

The new program is different from programs at other schools that completely phase out single use water bottles. Monaco-Barnes referenced previous applications of phasing out all single use water bottles to the increase in soft drink sales.

“One thing we noticed from other schools and consultation was that when they got rid of plastic water bottles there was a spike in pop and other juices which is obviously counter intuitive to a healthy active lifestyle,” he said. “So we wanted to make sure that if we were taking out single-use plastic water bottles… we were putting in something that could still reach that demand but also be more sustainable.”

To compromise, the MSU-run Union Market introduced boxed water cartons in September alongside the store’s existing plastic water bottle selection. But as of earlier in Feb., Union Market has phased out single-use plastic water bottles.

While the boxed water containers are more expensive than the cheaper plastic bottles, they match the price of higher end brands.

“We are hoping that if we can have enough students commit to not buying plastic bottles, that will be a driver for the university to not stock them,”
Blake Oliver
McMaster Students Union
vice president (Education) 

There is more to the increased sustainability of boxed water cartons than just their material. The cartons are square in shape, allowing more to be packed within a truck, creating a means to save on travel and gas. The boxed water cartons also require less input of water to be made. Currently it takes nearly three litres of water to make a single water bottle, whereas boxed water cartons only require one litre.

Blake Oliver, vice president (Education) of the MSU explained an upcoming campaign that will focus on how students can be more sustainable in their practices on campus.

“We are going to be encouraging students to not buy plastic bottles on campus. We are hoping that if we can have enough students commit to not buying plastic bottles, that will be a driver for the university to not stock them,” said Oliver.

Monaco-Barnes also mentioned further sustainability efforts, but that these would be issues tackled in the future.

“That is a down the road thing that I am going to stress to the incoming president… that it is something that would benefit students and the environment in an impactful way,” he said.

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