- Organizations across the United States have begun banning the sale of one-time use plastic water bottles.
- “I think we can do a much better job with educating people about the costs that they generate buying bottled water,” Jeff Brown, Missouri State’s Sustainability Coordinator, said. “Rather than telling people they can’t do something, I think we should be telling people why they might want to do other things.”
- The Ban the Bottle movement calls for the use of refillable bottles and a decrease in the amount of plastic bottles that are converted into waste.
- Multiple universities and organizations in Missouri have also taken part in similar efforts to reduce unnecessary waste.
Sustainable Initiatives Look To Remove Plastic Water Bottles
Across the United States, reusable water bottles are not only becoming more prevalent, but more necessary in some cases.
In February 2009, Washington University in St. Louis became the first university in the United States to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. Following in Wash U’s footsteps, numerous higher education institutions, cities and national parks across the country have decided to take similar action in hopes of reducing their carbon footprint.
Even the Grand Canyon has decided to ban the sale of water bottles to reduce plastic eyesores plaguing the park.
The Vice President of Communications for the International Bottled Water Association, Chris Hogan, said he believes a complete ban on bottled water would be impractical when an educational approach could be utilized instead.
The International Bottled Water Association is a trade association that has represented numerous aspects of the bottled water industry for over 50 years. Numerous high-profile companies are members of the association, including Nestle Pure Life.
“Certainly it [a ban] is a negative thing in terms of our industry and we would prefer that bottled water not be banned, but it’s something that doesn’t have a significant impact on our industry overall,” he said. “But it is troubling when we look at a lot of the claims that are being made and the reasons that people are giving to push for these kinds of bans. They aren’t simply issues of disagreement, but outright misstatements and unfounded claims.”
Hogan said the misstatements made by pro-ban individuals and groups are the most troubling aspect of the situation. Unfounded claims about the industry’s regulation practices, or lack thereof, have the potential to jeopardize the credibility of water bottle producers everywhere.
“To ban water is something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” the IBWA spokesperson said. “If the issue is about plastic bottles, why are you banning the healthiest option? If the issue is environmental, we need to look at all packaged beverages and increase recycling rates.”
Barbara Lucks, Springfield’s interim sustainability officer, heads an aggressive recycling program that includes curbside recycling, a Household Chemical Collection Center and much more. Lucks, who has worked for the the city’s Department of Environmental Services for over 17 years, said Springfield’s program may be the best in the state.
From July 2010 to June 2011, more than 400 tons of all types of plastic bottles were accounted for at the city’s recycling centers, when the city landfill sees about 600 tons of waste each day, Lucks said. This means that less than 1 percent of Springfield’s waste stream consists of plastic bottles.
However, many bottles are not recycled and end up wasting away in sanitary landfills, like the one 10 miles north of the city. Officials said that using bottled water is an unnecessary, wasteful practice when sanitary water is available.
Springfield is taking many steps to reduce waste and promote recycling. A committee of five staff members has been assigned to reach out to the community through the use of public speech, organized meetings and printed publications. There is also a hotline available to the public at 417-864-1904.
As for the implementation of a city-wide plastic water bottle ban, Lucks said she believes there would be a strong citizen backlash. Instead, she said focusing on voluntary actions in regards to recycling may be the best way to go about handling waste issues.
Jeff Brown, Missouri State University’s Sustainability Coordinator, holds a similar stance on the idea of a plastic water bottle ban.
“I think we can do a much better job with educating people about the costs that they generate buying bottled water,” Brown said. “Rather than telling people they can’t do something, I think we should be telling people why they might want to do other things.”
Brown said sustainability, more than anything, is a practice of responsibility.
According to annual recycling reports done by Office of Sustainability, Missouri State’s community has exhibited tremendous recycling responsibility. So far this school year, the university has already recycled more paper, bottles and cans than in the previous academic term. Brown said more containers, more awareness and positive attitudes toward the program on campus are to credit for the overwhelming improvement.
- Stations at other major locations on Missouri State’s campus include, (Wells House, Cheek Hall, Hill Hall, Ellis Hall, Shannon House, Craig Hall, Glass Hall, Carrington Hall, Temple Hall).
Kara Andres, president of Students for a Sustainable Future and the director of the sustainability committee for SGA has been working continuously to limit one-time use plastic water bottles on MSU’s campus.
“The whole purpose of installing those [hydration stations] last year was to eventually pursue this campaign [Ban the Bottle],” said Andres.
The hydration stations combat the idea of using one-time only bottles by showing how much plastic is being saved during each re-fill. These stations began popping up around campus in summer 2011, and were fully implemented by the university’s winter break.
“We want to pick it up and we think the next real thing that needs to happen is more hydration stations before we can continue with the campaign,” she said. “So, we’re writing another proposal for more hydration stations.”
So far, Andres said that 14 stations had been installed through the Student Sustainability Fund with the hopes of doubling this number in the near future.
Andres said that she believes the movement will be beneficial for those on campus, but that the movement hinges on being able to use and implement more hydration stations.
“Unless we get more hydration stations, all we’ll hear is complaints,” she said. “If we have sufficient hydration stations and then we continue to give all the incoming freshman the re-usable water bottles, which we’ve done the past two years, and have re-usable water bottles readily available for students, I don’t think they’ll have much to complain about.”
Aside from the effort to implement the Ban the Bottle campaign on campus, the sustainability committee is also involved in multiple proposals for more pronounced recycling bins and energy possibilities on campus for students.
This includes making recycling receptacles more readily accessible and in better locations.
Benjamen Loewnau: Interviews, video, photos, research, writing
Dayle Duggins: Interviews, research, writing
Alyssa Lueth: Interview, map
David Hunton: Research, graphic
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