Thompson Rivers University may be poised to become the first campus in Canada to ban the sale of non-reusable plastic bottles.
The TRU student union campaign calling for the ban went to a university review panel on Wednesday.
Tom Owen, panel chairman and TRU's environmental office director, said he would take the report submitted by Students for Sustainability campaign organizers and formulate his own report and recommendations for delivery to the school's board of governors by the end of April.
Written presentations and comments on the oral presentations will be received until March 22.
Although it's unclear whether he'll support a complete plastic bottle sales ban, he acknowledged that the ecological impact is "an important issue."
Where it goes from there is up to the board of governors.
The student union's report uses various sources to argue that aluminum, glass and paper alternatives would save considerable environmental hardship.
"The primary material inputs in the production of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are petroleum-based and highly toxic substances," states the report.
The bottles are also recycled at a much lower rate than glass and aluminum, and of the recycled material only a small percentage is turned back into bottles.
Nonetheless, plastic bottle production is not only on the rise but also increasingly replacing the less harmful alternatives, said Lane.
Dylan Robinson, TRUSU vice president of external, presented the panel with 2,700 pledge cards signed by students, faculty and staff vowing to stop buying plastic bottled beverages.
He added that 15 TRU departments have also expressed support.
"The position of the campus of clear — overwhelming support for banning disposable plastic beverage containers," said Robinson.
TRUSU director Leif Douglass said organizers tallied the cost of implementing a ban in three ways: cost to the institution, cost to campus beverage providers and cost to campus consumers.
"In all of these conceptions, there is no evidence to support the expectation of negative impact," said Douglass.
A common misconception, he said, is the campaign seeks to limit beverage choice — that's not the case.
He added that his research of university contractual obligations to beverage companies showed no barriers to the student union's desires.
However a policy does state that beverage providers must follow rules set out by the board of governors.
Owen commended the trio of student union organizers who presented their argument for "working very hard to make this as non-controversial as possible."
TRUSU executive director Nathan Lane told the panel that he hoped the campaign results in partnerships, not adversarial relationships.
"Our best alternative is that following this review and the recommendations to the board of governors, the student union representatives, representatives from the beverage industry and the institutions are going to be champions moving forward together, not against each other."