Ottawa Citizen: Coca-Cola products and other single-use plastic bottles could be banned at city buildings

By John Willing

Beverages sold in single-use plastic bottles could be banned from City of Ottawa programs and facilities under a recommendation from council’s environment committee.

Coun. Catherine McKenney’s motion to get staff working on a plan to eliminate single-use plastics and foamed plastics “where there is an environmentally responsible alternative” received unanimous support from the committee on Tuesday.

It’s timely for council to consider plastic trash since the city is refreshing its solid waste management policy and the upper-levels of government are pushing tougher waste-reduction strategies.

When it comes to plastic waste, McKenney has taken aim at the city’s vending agreements.

The city makes money off exclusive pouring-right deals with beverage companies, however, it has struggled to extract revenue from a municipal sponsorship program, under which the cold beverage agreements fall.

All vending revenue is supposed to hit $276,000 annually, but the city says it’s currently achieving $129,173.

The city has a pouring rights deal with Coca-Cola for all municipal facilities. A five-year deal started on Dec. 30, 2011, but the contract calls for a minimum sales volume of 115,000 cases, so the contract term extends until the volume is satisfied.

As of December 2018, 85,347 cases of beverages had been sold. It could take another three years to satisfy the minimum sales volume, the city says.

According to the city, it would cost $740,000 to terminate the contract and buy the remaining cases.

For the five years of the Coca-Cola deal, the city collected $135,000 annually for the exclusive pouring rights.

The city has a contract with Pepsi at Lansdowne Park through the partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. The contract lasts until June 2022.

McKenney’s motion also calls on the city to find alternatives to the Coca-Cola contract when the city meets the minimum sales volume.

On top of that, her motion would get staff looking at whether they could eliminate all single-use and foamed plastics in contracted services.

Waste-reduction advocates often target bottled water sales at the City of Ottawa.

Of the total vending sales in 2018, the city says 25 per cent came from bottled water.

Advocacy groups have called on the city to stop selling bottled water in municipal facilities. Most recently, demonstrators gathered in city hall last March calling on council to ban bottled water sales.

Eric Schiller of the Ottawa Water Study/Action Group encouraged the environment committee to block the city from selling single-use plastic water bottles, especially when high-quality municipal water is cheaper.

“We’ve been scammed by branding and advertising,” Schiller said.

McKenney said the city needs to spend more money on promoting municipal drinking water.

The city has about $100,000 available this year to promote the municipal water supply.

“We really have to make the effort to let people know that we have the best drinking water that you can get,” McKenney said.

Council will consider the committee’s recommendation on June 26.

Catherine McKenney