First Aussie university takes steps to ban bottled water

Published On January 24, 2011 | By Tomás Bosque | News, School

The University of Canberra will become the first Australian campus to ban the sale of bottled water.

Assuming it is successful in encouraging students to use refillable bottles, the ban – starting on March 22 – could reduce bottled water sales by 140,000 a year.

Bottled water will be replaced in campus cafes and shops by water vending machines that refill a 600-ML container with chilled water for $1 or sparkling water for $1.50 – cheaper than for sealed bottles.

Refillable plastic and aluminum bottles will be sold on campus. Backed by funding from the ACT government, the university has also installed six new water bubbler and bottle refill stations on the campus.

Jon Dee, founder of activist group Do Something!, which helped organize the ban following a student campaign, said: “his sets a model that other universities can follow – we’re talking to several universities that have expressed interest.”

A survey two years ago by the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association estimated that more than half the plastic bottles sold in Australia end up in landfill, rather than being recycled.

Mr Dee said government statistics suggested more than 105 million liters of oil was used to produce the bottled water bought in Australia each year. This translated to an annual 126,000 tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions.

The university ban follows a similar step in 2009 by a small NSW town, Bundanoon.

University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker said it was part of a push to make the campus sustainable.

Geoff Parker, chief executive of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute, said it was absurd that a country grappling with an obesity crisis would not provide as many options as possible for students to drink water. He said the ”jury was out” on whether refillable bottles were better for the environment, and that banning bottled water could boost sales of soft drinks.

“The University of Canberra needs to be thinking about what this means for the waistlines of its students,” Mr Parker said.

[via Sydney Morning Herald]

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