University Bans Bottled Water, Prompting Debate From Local Beverage Companies

Something will be missing from the snow-covered University of Vermont campus this month: bottled water. The university is the latest to ban on-campus sales of bottled water.

At the university’s Burlington campus, recently remodeled refill stations allow students to fill up their reusable water bottles with tap water. For many of the staffers and students on campus, the lack of bottled water won’t be a big adjustment.

“It’s much more convenient to fill up your water bottle at a water fountain than to buy bottled water,” says Mikayla McDonald, a recent graduate who a few years ago helped to launch the campaign that led to the university’s ban. McDonald hopes it will reduce waste.

But for McDonald, it’s not only the plastic bottles that concern her but what’s in the bottles.

“Bottled water is a symbol of our culture’s obsession with commodifying things that should be public trust resources,” she says.

While the University of Vermont is not the first higher education institution to ban or limit water bottle sales to promote sustainability, it is the largest public university to do so.

The news comes after a town in Massachusetts banned the sales of bottled water in its stores.

Beverage companies are reportedly concerned by the movement.

“I think they’re concerned because it’s such a radical step,” says lobbyist Andrew MacLean, who represents local water and soft drink distributors in Vermont. While MacLean agrees with the students’ environmental goals, he believes that outright banning restricts free choice.

“The factors that will result in more materials getting out of landfills is going to be a cooperative effort promoting strong recycling,” he argues.

What do you think about the banning of bottled water sales?