Published On: Mon, Jul 20th, 2015

New Study: plastic water bottle ban led to more waste, increased sugary drink users

A new study sheds light on the effects of the bottled water ban at the University of Vermont, revealing an unexpected series of results. Students may have complied with the ban on plastic bottles, but picked up more sugary bottled beverages, and did so at a higher rate.

Not only did the ban fail to reduce plastic waste, it also failed to help students’ waistlines, says College Fix, covering the failed measure.

“The bottled water ban did not reduce the number of bottles entering the waste stream from the university campus, the ultimate goal of the ban,” researchers concluded.

“With the removal of bottled water, consumers increased their consumption of less healthy bottled beverages.”

“The articles noted the data found an 8 percent increase in bottles shipped to the campus between Spring of 2012 and Spring of 2013, and a 25 percent increase in bottles of sugary drinks shipped to campus, according to University of Vermont officials.”(emphasis added, The Dispatch)

Marco Rubio drinking water during speech

Banning the plastic bottles did eliminate trash and students just drank more sugary drinks photo/ Marco Rubio’s drinking water debacle

University funds, likely tax payer dollars, were used to purchase reusable bottles at campus events, retrofitted the water fountains for these bottles, which made available to students at no cost.

“Conversable Economist” Timothy Taylor noted that a “reasonable amount of survey data suggests that many people switch from sugar-sweetened drinks to bottled water, and that if bottled water isn’t available, many of them will switch back.”

“It seems to me that true believers in the power of community education should see no particular need for proposal to ban water bottles or mandate healthier mixture of drinks,” Taylor added.

“It’s only if you doubt the power of such education that bans on bottled water become a plausible option.”

While the University of Vermont is not denying the study’s findings, the emailed College Fix a statement which describes how the campus will respond to the “unintended consequences.”

“The research points to the role convenience can play in beverage choice,” officials acknowledged.

In the statement, the university outlined a series of changes, beginning this month, that aim to reverse the trend. These changes include offering free, filtered cold water and free cups in all retail dining outlets. This fall, the university will also start a public information campaign.

The University of Vermont and its student body are notoriously eco-friendly and health conscious. The surprising results of this particular bottled water ban cast a dark shadow over the bottled water bans of other universities across the nation.

The university did not attach a cost to these new measures and efforts to “ban” the bottled water.

“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,” stated Chris Hogan, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association.

“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.”

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  1. American Beverage Association, ABA Communications says:

    As we have consistently said, education, not bans and regulation, encourage behavior change. What’s more, bottled water is a viable option, and consumers are completely capable of making beverage choices for themselves.
    -American Beverage Association

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