City of Powell River council has voted to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottled water inside its civic buildings.
The vote on Thursday, April 6, was split. Councillors CaroleAnn Leishman, Karen Skadsheim, Rob Southcott and Russell Brewer voted in favour while Maggie Hathaway and Jim Palm voted against the ban.
Powell River Youth Council forwarded a recommendation last month that the sale of single-use bottled water be banned at Powell River Recreation Complex and city hall.
“Letters have also come in from residents requesting that council ban the sale of bottled water at civic facilities and the complex, and not have bottled water at public events we are involved in and or hosting,” said Leishman while introducing the motion at the meeting.
Civic facilities have bottle-filling stations, water fountains and sinks and the city has some of the best tap water in the country, she added.
“We have a lot of it and we pay to have that water processed and filtered, so it’s healthy drinking water,” said Leishman.
Hathaway said that while she appreciated youth council’s thoughts, city council was being asked to vote on something it had not yet been briefed on by city staff. City parks, recreation and culture director Ray Boogaards is scheduled to present a report on the issue to council at its meeting on Tuesday, April 18.
“There may be ramifications and we have asked staff for a report,” said Hathaway at the meeting, “so I would prefer to get the report first to see what kind of pitfalls there might be to this action before voting in favour of it.”
Palm told council the issue is more complicated than just simply ending the sale of bottled water completely. He said he did not support a blanket ban because it was important to be able to have bottled water available for people at outdoor functions.
“We want to have the option at outdoor events, where people like the convenience of bottled water and having the ability to purchase it,” he told council. “We have large bins we could have for disposal, so the bottles are not going into the landfill. We could take care of them in a responsible manner and teach our youth and residents how to take care of plastic bottles in the process.”
Palm noted that bottled water sales in North America have surpassed all other drinks and the larger environmental issue is the impact single-use plastic shopping bags are having on ocean ecology.
“This is a great opportunity for a teachable moment, not just a complete ban,” Palm told the councillors. “There’s a lot more to it; there’s a lot of thought that has to go into it. Let’s defer and hear the report, have a thorough discussion and then we can plot our course.”
Leishman clarified the motion for councillors.
“We’re not talking about banning bottled water from outdoor events or from Walmart,” she said. “We’re just talking about being community leaders and saying that in the recreation complex and city hall we have no need for bottled water.”
The issue has been up for debate inside council chambers on previous occasions. Brewer raised the issue in 2012, but it was voted down at the time. It was raised again in 2015 and staff was directed to provide a report.
Leishman said she did not see any reason to wait before making a decision on the issue.
“If we have a report coming, then it can just tell us how we can get out of contracts with vending-machine operators and tell us how quickly we can get rid of the bottled water,” said Leishman. “I don’t think we have to defer it.”
After the meeting, Leishman thanked youth council for its recommendation.
“They are starting to understand what their role can be,” she said. “It was great to have them be the catalyst to jumpstart this. I’m really happy and proud of our youth council.”