The University of Vermont has responded to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health that found the school’s 2012 decision to end the sale of bottled water on campus failed to achieve its goal of reducing plastic waste. Furthermore, the data indicated that the ban may have also resulted in an increased consumption of sugary beverages.
The study, titled “The Unintended Consequences of Changes in Beverage Options and the Removal of Bottled Water on a University Campus,” discovered an 8 percent increase in all bottles and a 25 percent increase in bottles of sugary beverages shipped to the school between the Spring of 2012 and Spring of 2013.
Elizabeth Berman and Rachel Johnson, who authored the study, found “the removal of bottled water seems to magnify the undesirable beverage consumption patterns observed in the literature and may influence people to select less healthy beverage options.”
In its response, UVM wrote that “the research points to the role convenience can play in beverage choice. The upgrades at UVM did not include making free water readily available inside the retail food outlets.”
Accordingly UVM will now have free, filtered water available via Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machines at “several retail dining outlets” when the school year commences this Fall. The university has also announced a new standard requiring that at least half of the campus’ beverage offerings contain 40 or less calories per 8-ounce serving.
Chris Hogan, Vice President of Communications for the International Bottled Water Association criticized the foundation of the school’s initiative in a response to the study.
“These bans are a misguided attempt to deal with a waste issue that would be better addressed through efforts to increase the recycling rates of all packaged drinks,” Hogan wrote. “Bottled water containers are the most highly recycled containers in curbside programs, and data derived from EPA figures demonstrates that plastic water bottles make up less than one-third of one percent of the U.S. waste stream. So, getting rid of bottled water on campus will not make a significant improvement to waste issues.”