Plastic Bottles

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MSU Plastic Bottle Free Policy

On Sunday September 19th at a meeting of the Student Representative Assembly an exciting milestone in sustainability efforts was achieved when the proposed Plastic Bottle Free Policy was adopted with unanimous consensus from the assembly’s voting members. This policy officially commits that no MSU money will go towards the purchasing of beverages in single-use plastic bottles. The Policy can be found online here.

The move to go Plastic Bottle Free stems from McMaster waste audit results that show plastics have a much higher rate of being disposed of in comparison to glass and aluminum on campus. Work to generate this policy was done with the support of the McMaster Office of Sustainability and the MSU Service MacGreen.

This impressive commitment results from an initiative started last February when full-time staff of the MSU signed a pledge to designate the MSU Main Office a Plastic Bottle Free Zone. A Plastic Bottle Free Zone is a physical office location or area that prohibits the use of single-use plastic bottles by individuals when they are within that zone. Other Services of the MSU, specifically MacGreen, the Student Health Education Centre (SHEC) and COMPASS, followed suit soon after and also adopted their spaces as Plastic Bottle Free Zones. At this time MSU affiliated individuals as well as McMaster University staff, faculty and students were encouraged to take an individual Plastic Bottle Free Pledge. This pledge is still available at and states: “I pledge to use a refillable bottle whenever possible, drink tap water where public drinking water is available, or opt to purchase beverages in aluminum cans or glass bottles”. Also included is information about the health, economic and environmental benefits of going Plastic Bottle Free.

McMaster has supported the use of refillable bottles as a campus sustainability initiative aimed at decreasing waste on campus by encouraging reuse. Beginning in 2009, the University began a Water Fountain Retrofit Program to ensure that campus fountains included a bubbler for drinking, a gooseneck spout for bottle refilling and a chillier to provide cold water. Each retrofit location was also outfitted with an educational sign stating “tis better to refill than to landfill”. Starting in 2010, all retrofitted fountains also include a filter as well as an electronic counter which tracks the number of single-use plastic bottles saved as a result of refilling. To date, over 60 water fountains have been retrofitted on campus. A list of all retrofitted fountain locations can be found online at:

If you would like to find out how to make your space a Plastic Bottle Free Zone or have any questions or comments regarding the Plastic Bottle Free Policy and initiative please feel free to contact Katie Ferguson, Vice President (Administration).

Water Fountain Retrofits

The Office of Sustainability aims to decrease the number of single use plastic bottles destined for landfill each year by promoting the use of refillable bottles.


In 2009, the Office of Sustainability worked with Facility Services, MPS and MSU to retrofit one water fountain in every academic and administrative building on campus. The retrofits were accompanied by an educational campaign promoting the use of refillable containers. The pilot was received very well by members of the campus community. Expansion of this program further supports the use of refi lling containers rather than purchasing single-use plastic bottles.


  • Decrease the number of single-use plastic bottles being consumed by the campus community by
    providing the infrastructure to support the refilling of reusable containers.
  • Promote the campus-wide use of reusable containers and water-filling stations.


During the summer of 2010, 13 water fountains were retrofitted with a refilling station. These stations include a bubbler for drinking, a gooseneck spout for refilling and a chiller to provide cold water. The retrofits were accompanied by an educational campaign and signage promoting the use of refillable bottles.


McMaster’s Facility Services and Office of Sustainability, in consultation with various members of the McMaster community, worked in collaboration to defi ne the locations to be retrofitted. McMaster’s Facility Services conducted retrofits of the initial ten defined locations as well as three retrofitted fountains that, in addition to the gooseneck, bubbler and chiller, also contain a filter and sensor to track the number of bottles saved by refilling.

Find a location near you.

Plastic-Bottle-Free Zones


To further engage the community to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic beverage bottles, the creation of Plastic-Bottle-Free Zones was investigated.


  • Decrease the number of single-use plastic bottles being consumed by the campus community through education and encouragement.
  • Promote the campus-wide use of refillable containers and alternatives to plastic bottles.
  • Expand on MACgreen’s “Tap It” campaign, which encourages reusable water bottles by educating the student population on the social, economic and environmental benefits of employing a reusable bottle rather than consuming single-use plastic bottles.


The MSU President along with MSU staff and volunteers have worked together with the Office of Sustainability to establish the MSU Office as McMaster’s first Plastic-Bottle-Free zone on campus.
To ensure that water quality meets a high standard for consumption, testing of water was conducted across
campus. Remedial actions were taken at locations found to be inconsistent with McMaster’s standards.

On February 28th, 2011, the MSU Staff pledged to make the MSU Main Office a plastic bottle free zone. Learn more about this initiative and how you can get involved by going to:


The MSU and McMaster’s Office of Sustainability are the main collaborators leading this initiative for McMaster.


A topic covered in Volume 10 – Issue 4 of Health Talk@Mac in 2007 shows how you can save a lot of money and decrease waste by consuming tap water. Some interesting points from the article are listed below:

Brand name bottled water costs about $1.50 per bottle. That’s about 3000 times more expensive than an equal amount of municipal tap water.

Bottled water companies do not have to release their water testing results to the public, whereas municipalities do. Municipal water supplies undergo extensive water quality testing. City of Toronto tests for bacteria, like E.coli, and for more than 300 chemicals, pesticides and compounds.

Disposable plastic bottles produce a massive amount of waste and require the burning of large amounts of fossil fuels to transport and for recycling.

Barber, 2007


March 2, 2012