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UWRF considers removal of bottled water sales

September 23, 2010

Though UW-River Falls has been making efforts to develop an environmentally friendly campus over the years, UW-Stevens Point has taken the idea of a “green campus” a step further and has become the UW-System’s first bottled water free campus.

UW-Stevens Point has decided to stop selling bottled water on campus. Their dining services advisory board made the move to ask University Dining Services to cease sales of bottled water during the 2009-2010 school year.

With a vending contract up for renewal, Associate Director of the University Center Jerome Linderberger said he wanted to find out what costs were associated with the sale of bottled water through the vending machines on campus. He found that the sale of bottled water was related to their cost in recycling fees.
“We quickly understood that the impact of reducing bottled water on the campus recycling costs was large,” Linderberger said.

By eliminating bottled water on their campus, they are reducing the amount of bottles going into their roll-off dumpsters. This reduces the costs of transporting and having them recycled because there are less bottles to be recycled.

“The financial impact on the recycling budget, based on our anticipated reduction of sales, was a savings of about $2,500 per year in roll-off fees,” Linderberger said. “We will see a commensurate savings on collection labor costs.”

UW-Stevens Point’s Dining Services has already seen a reduction in sales of all bottled soda products. Instead, they encourage students to use their own bottles and fill them at water fountains. The campus has equipped water fountains with filler spouts to make the process easier.

“The bottlers, Coke and Pepsi, both advised us that we were making a mistake in that we would reduce our sales,” Linderberger said. “Ultimately it is not about the money, it is about the planet.”

Organizations on the UWRF campus have been offering programs to minimize bottle beverage usage. To reduce waste, there have been refillable faucets installed in most of the drinking fountains in the UC. Sodexo Services, the University Bookstore and Dining Services all sell refillable mugs and bottles to reduce the amount of plastic water bottles and disposables. Sodexo offers discounts on all refillable mugs in all retail venues, and fountain beverages are always priced lower than bottled beverages. Riverside Commons also offers several tap water options in the dining room.

“UW-Stevens Point is very principled and I greatly respect their commitment to sustainability,” said Director of Dining Services Jerry Waller. “It would be important for students and staff to request this type of change.”

Both Waller and UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen said they admire Stevens Point for making the change, but for such a change in policy to occur at UWRF, students would have to get involved and request the change.

“UW-River Falls has a strong commitment to sustainability, and it is definitely a practice that we could consider as a campus,” said Van Galen. “It would be important to hear the student view on this, since they would be significantly impacted by such a change.”