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How a Canadian company diverted millions of plastic bottles

Monday, April 22nd 2019, 1:53 pm - From a local folk festival to the White House, this Orillia, Ont. company found a solution to help reduce the mass public consumption of plastic bottles

While trying to solve a plastic bottle problem locally, Paul Baker ended up with a solution for the rest of the world, as well.

For years, the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ont. would run into the same issue – thousands of plastic bottles would get consumed and then thrown into the trash or recycled improperly.

Although Event Water Solutions was founded in 2010, with help from the festival’s green committee, Baker introduced the first refill station at the 2009 folk festival.

Baker noted the company, on average, eliminates about 14,000 plastic bottles every year at the local event.

"After it was a great success at that festival and everybody loved it, I kind of thought this might be a business," said Baker.

"I started going to trade shows, trying to see if I could drum up more business in the music festival market."

COMPANY WILL SAVE ABOUT 10 MILLION BOTTLES IN 2019; WILL SOON HIT 100 MILLION OVERALL

Word quickly spread about Event Water Solutions, and nowadays, a festival of that size is “reasonably small” by its standards, Baker said.

For example, an upcoming event in Las Vegas, Nev. is expected to reduce hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles.

He estimates the company will eliminate 10 million bottles in 2019 and expects its total amount of bottles saved to hit 100 million in the near future.

“In our first year, I thought 'won't it be great one day when we can say we saved a million bottles.' It took us about three years to get to that number,” said Baker.

"We will probably be pushing [the] 100-million bottle envelope, in pretty short order. That is an amazing number to me."

FROM SMALL-TOWN PARK TO THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN...AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

22500190 156384244954558 6144483181203554304 n Lollapalooza, 2017. Photo credit: Event Water Solutions.

Over the years Event Water Solutions has provided refill stations at events such as Vans Warped Tour, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Electric Daisy Carnival and the RBC Canadian Open.

The stations have also made their way to the Barclays Centre in New York City, a Canada Day gathering at Parliament Hill, a political rally for Hillary Clinton and even the White House, for its annual Easter Egg Hunt, on more than one occasion.

As it turns out, the same company that managed Lollapalooza also handled the Easter Egg Roll at the White House, but only for former president Barack Obama, so Baker found his way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. through the connection.

"[It] called us and [it] said, 'look, we would like a water station for the Easter Egg Roll. We did that for five of the eight years Obama was in office," said Baker.

The Event Water Solutions president said it was a "great honour" to be there for five years.

"To work both at Parliament Hill and at the White House...I was just checking those boxes off. I hope to get in front of the British parliament one day," said Baker.

AWARENESS OF PLASTIC CONSUMPTION REACHING GOVERNMENTS

1 Austin City Limits, 2010. Photo credit: Event Water Solutions.

With the mounting public awareness of the environmental damage caused by plastic, Baker said the message is now starting to get through to governments, too.

He cited San Francisco's ban on the sale of plastic bottles, as well as New York's attempts to ban single-use plastic bags and expand bottle deposits, as examples.

"There are a lot of municipalities now that are banning the sale of plastic bottles at events. As municipalities start banning the sale of plastic at events...that disseminates into public opinion, as well," said Baker.

"If they see the government is actually saying, 'no, this is wrong now,' it really sinks in with the general public."

PUBLIC RESPONSE EXCEEDED BAKER'S EXPECTATIONS

From providing a single water refill station at the Mariposa Folk Festival to having a current inventory of 75 units that have reached five countries, Event Water Solutions has grown a lot since inception.

Baker said the response to the water stations has "far exceeded" his expectations for the company.

"I thought I was going to have my one little water station and go to a few folk festivals a year when I started. I had no idea it would expand like this," Baker explained.

"We started out strictly as a green company to reduce plastic, but we've rapidly become a health and safety company, where we're just there for the health and safety of patrons at major events."

The company is now expanding "faster than I've ever expected and further than I've ever expected," he said, as it is now covering events in Europe and Australia, with the possibility of going to Asia.

"It's far more than I ever expected it to be."

For more information on Event Water Solutions, click here.

WATCH BELOW: YOU COULD BE EATING PLASTIC EVERYDAY AND HAVE NO IDEA YOU'RE DOING IT

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