Plastic Bans Make Bottled Water Hard to Swallow

Thirsty people have been turning to bottled water by the millions to refresh and rehydrate themselves during work and play. This consumption leads to lots of plastic trash that will last for years in a landfill if it’s not otherwise recycled.

A recent article on Glamour Magazine’s website looked at the topic of drinking water versus sugary beverages delivered in plastic bottles. How would removing bottled water from a lively college campus affect water consumption and plastic pollution? Thanks to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, there’s now data on the effect of banning bottled water.

The study took place at the University of Vermont, which enjoys the vibrant food and music scene of nearby Burlington. College students found themselves on the receiving end of a ban on bottled water during part of the study. 

Once that ban took place, students didn’t opt to quench their thirst from water fountains or a tap. They chose from other bottled beverages for sale of the sugary and non-sugary variety. The increase in sugary beverage consumption rose 25 percent. 

One might have hoped the ban would result in less plastic entering the environment. Nope, said the study’s findings. The number of plastic bottles entering the waste stream rose by 8.5 percent as students clicked on alternative bottled beverages.

Hopes that students would go for other sources of water resulted in disappointment. While the study’s researchers urged the development of easier ways to recycle, other options for drinking water without the disposable bottle are available.

Companies like S’well make stylish reusable bottles that keep water cold and refreshing through the day. The company claims one S’well bottle means 3,000 plastic bottles aren’t being used in a year. That sounds like a number the University of Vermont researchers would drink to in satisfaction.