News Release

photo credit: Boris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press. Reproduced with permission.Water: Not For Sale

UWinnipeg to be first university in Canada to ban plastic water bottles


photo by: Boris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press. Reproduced with permission. Students Vinay Iyer and Stephanie Chartrand.

WINNIPEG, MB – The University of Winnipeg is listening to its student body, which voted to ban the sale of plastic water bottles last week. The ban will be phased in over the coming months, making UWinnipeg the first university in Canada to adopt the eco-friendly policy.

Approximately 38,400 plastic water bottles are currently sold in the cafeterias and vending machines on UWinnipeg campus annually. Students will also be encouraged to refrain from bringing retail, disposable bottles on campus and to switch instead to reusable bottles. To encourage this practice, The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association will partner with UWinnipeg to provide all first year, incoming students with reusable bottles for free as part of their orientation package.

Last week, during student elections, The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association held a referendum on campus asking students if they would support the elimination of plastic water bottles. Almost three quarters, or 74.8 per cent, of those who voted said, “Yes”.

Water security 

“There is a growing awareness internationally, one that is increasingly embraced by the next generation, that water security is a basic human right,” said UWinnipeg President & Vice-Chancellor Lloyd Axworthy. “We are committed to a comprehensive Sustainability Management System at The University of Winnipeg, unique among Canadian universities, and the initiative shown by our students to reduce needless plastics on campus is consistent with that policy. We are proud to support this student-led initiative.”

The water-bottle ban builds on other important green initiatives at UWinnipeg including the campus-wide composting program introduced in August 2008. Together with its recycling program, UWinnipeg is now diverting over 70% of materials that would be lost to landfill as "waste".

“While plastic bottles are not environmentally sustainable, they also undermine the quality of public water,” said Vinay Iyer, University of Winnipeg Students' Association President. “We encourage our students to drink safe and free public drinking water as an alternative to expensive bottled water.”

In 2005, President and Vice-Chancellor Lloyd Axworthy committed to a comprehensive Sustainability Management System for The University of Winnipeg, the first of its kind in Canada in a university setting. A commitment was also made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the short-term goal of making The University Kyoto Protocol compliant, and the long-term objective of achieving zero net emissions.

As evidence of the importance of sustainability and to raise the profile on campus, UWinnipeg recently became the first university in Canada to place sustainability at the executive table by adding responsibility for this initiative to one of its Vice-President positions.

Diane Poulin, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
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