The discovery of microplastic particles in bottled water is prompting the college to stop selling it within the next four years.
Microplastics were found in Canada’s top water bottle brands and that’s raised anxiety among some Humber College students. But the college will eliminate the sale of plastic water bottles by the end of 2022, said the Humber’s Acting Sustainability Manager.
“We are going to meet with the Sustainability Committee in early May, and we have so many reasons as to why we need to do that,” Roma Malik said
“We will no longer be having bottled water, but of course we’re looking at doing at a safe period approach because we want to ensure that all the vendors at our college are aware and able to make the certain changes,” she said.
Global research conducted by Orb Media, a non-profit journalism organization in Washington D.C., questions the purity of single-use water bottle because it found the majority of the bottled water tested contains tiny bits of plastic substances called microplastics.
The research conducted at the University of New York in March 2018, took more than 250 samples of bottled water from 11 major brands sold in nine countries. The results showed few of the bottles contained no plastic, but others had thousands of substantial plastic particles.
The products of major North American and Asian brands tested in the research included Evian, San Pellegrino and Nestle Pure Life. In 93 per cent of the bottles tested, researchers found microplastics, including polystyrene, nylon, polypropylene, and polyethylene particles in the bottled water.
A CBC Marketplace investigation conducted a follow-up study focused on Canadian brands of bottled water, and they worked with researchers at McGill University to test water samples from Dasani, Eska, Nestle Pure Life, Aquafina and Naya brands.
Researchers found 30 of the 50 bottles tested had microplastics. The bottles purchased from the markets of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal.
Malik said the Sustainability Office has not yet publicly announced the elimination of plastic water bottles from the college, but the timing of the study will help bring awareness among the students.
While it’s not known if the microplastic particles pose a health risk, the findings from the research opened doors to new studies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it would assess the impact of microplastics particles on the human body.
Water bottles marketed as the essence of purity and quality, but the presence of microplastic substances make students anxious about buying them.
Toni Kaye, a paralegal student at Humber College, said she is worried after the recent media reports on plastic substances in water bottles supplied in Toronto.
“Personally, I drink around one-and-a-half-liter water every day, and I don’t think I would like to have plastic in my bloodstreams,” Kaye said. “I want to drink water from a proper water bottle which is authentic and supplied to college with lab reports of having proper minerals in the water rather than plastic.”
Malik said Ontario’s tap water quality is very high, tested regularly, and is extremely safe to drink. There are numerous water fountains throughout the campuses and she suggests the use of plastic water bottles is unsustainable from many environmental factors.
“What we know is that the tap water available in Toronto and the GTA is actually one of the best quality in the world,” Malik said. “At the Office of Sustainability, we really encourage everyone to bring in a reusable water bottle and use tap water because of the high-quality standards and safety standards that we have seen in the city.”
Many students buy bottled water, and they say it is a convenient way of carrying water. There are also vending machines throughout the campuses making it an easy buy.
“It’s convenient to buy water from a vending machine or campus cafeteria, I even bring one from home as its super cheap when we buy it in bulk,” Paras Arora, a Humber student, said.
Dione Dias, with Facilities and Services at the University of Toronto, the university banned the sale of bottled water in 2011, as bottled water production is not sustainable and the containers cannot be reused, ending up in landfills as many of them are not recyclable.
According to the list compiled by “Ban the Bottle,” 17 universities and colleges in Canada banned the sale of a single-use water bottle on their campuses.
Malik said a college-wide ban on plastic water bottles might seem far away, but the implementation starts very soon. Humber College will phase out the sale of single-use bottled water by the end of 2022.
“We will be taking steps towards the full integration, so we won’t just start it in 2022, but we want to take one step at a time, we are planning to restrict one certain product at the certain location every year until 2022,” she said.