Association says UVM ban fails to encourage students to choose healthy alternatives
The International Bottled Water Assn. (IBWA) released a statement saying that a decision by the University of Vermont (UVM) to ban the sale of bottled water, while at the same time mandating that vending machines contain one-third healthy beverages, sends a contradictory and confusing message to its students.
“The university has failed to understand that bottled water is most often an alternative to other packaged drinks, which are often less healthy, and is not necessarily an alternative to tap water,” said Chris Hogan, IBWA vice president of communications.
“Research by owners of vending machines shows when bottled water is not available in a vending machine, people choose other packaged beverages, which may contain sugar, caffeine and other additives. They don’t necessarily go looking for a drinking water fountain,” Hogan added.
IBWA notes that the university-wide ban coincides with a mandate that vending machines contain one-third healthy beverages.
“It’s a misguided attempt to deal with a waste issue that would be better addressed through improved recycling rates of all packaged drinks,” Hogan said. “Bottled water containers are the most highly recycled containers in curbside programs, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has calculated that plastic bottled water containers make up just 0.03% of the U.S. waste stream. So getting rid of bottled water on campus will not make a significant improvement to waste issues.
“Instead, students will turn to other packaged drinks, which still require proper recycling collection facilities,” he said. “I would encourage students, if they want to make a real difference for the environment, to focus their efforts of improving recycling rates of all beverages, not single out one of the healthiest drinks on the shelf.
Hogan speculated whether UVM administrators would now face similar backlash from its students as the state of Vermont did from its workers when it attempted a similar ban last year. In June 2011, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin postponed a state bottled water ban after workers voiced concerns over access to drinking water.