Environment & Economy By Peggy Chan 191 Views

Coca-Cola contract preventing city from ditching plastics

The City of Ottawa is unlikely to rid its arenas and other facilities of single-use plastic drink bottles until its contract with Coca-Cola finally runs dry, likely in 2021 or 2022.

The city's contract with the beverage company, signed in 2011, will only lapse when it reaches a minimum sales volume, and that could take another three years, according to a staff report to be tabled at next week's meeting of the environmental protection, water and waste management committee.

With calls for the city to rid itself of single-use plastics on the rise, Coun. Catherine McKenney asked staff to provide a detailed account of its contracts with the beverage companies whose products are sold at city facilities.

According to the report, the city entered into a five-year contract with Coca-Cola in 2011, agreeing to sell a minimum of 115,000 cases of the company's drinks. When the initial term of the contract ended in 2016, sales had only reached 65,959 cases, the city said. 

As of the end of last year, the city still had to sell another 29,563 cases to fulfil its part of the deal, which staff expect to take about another three years. Breaking the contract early would cost about $740,000, according to the report.

Under the agreement, Coca-Cola paid the city $135,000 per year for five years for exclusive "pouring rights" at city facilities. That arrangement ended in 2016, and the city now gets a commission on beverage sales instead.

Promoting tap water

Single-use plastic bottles used for beverages and cleaning supplies are currently at City Hall and several other city buildings, the report noted.

Staff said the city has taken steps reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles by installing water fountains designed to refill reusable bottles, a possible factor in the slow sales of bottled drinks.

Last month, a group calling itself the Ottawa Water Study Action Group gathered at City Hall to celebrate the quality of local drinking water, and to ask the city to pull out of the plastic water bottle business.

The group said the city is not doing enough to promote its own drinking water. The 2019 budget earmarks $100,000 for the promotion of city tap water.