The University of Northern Iowa has taken the initiative to reduce the number of disposable plastic water bottles used on campus. To encourage the use of reusable, eco-friendly bottles, UNI has installed 45 water bottle refill stations on campus. Nearly every building on campus is equipped with a water bottle refill station. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors are taking advantage of this opportunity.
UNI has saved more than 530,000 water bottles as of April 25, 2014.
Why use refillable containers instead of buying bottled water? First of all, bottled water is absurdly expensive; ounce for ounce, it’s more expensive than gasoline. This means that consumers are often paying outrageous amounts of money for what is essentially filtered tap water, and they’re creating massive amounts of waste in the process. Plastic water bottles are responsible for well over a million tons of plastic waste each year, an amount that requires almost fifty million gallons of oil to produce; that’s enough oil to fuel more than a million cars a year! Last year, the average american used over 150 plastic water bottles, but recycled only 40 of those. On average, Americans use about 50,000,000,000 water bottles a year, wasting more than a billion dollars worth of plastic.
Beyond the economic cost of using plastic bottles, however, is the environmental cost. The waste from the excess plastic bottles overflows landfills and recycling centers, congregating in the oceans of the world and posing serious risks to marine life. This is only compounded by the fact that plastic waste never goes away, as plastic has an extremely slow decomposition rate. In other words, the garbage and plastic from the plastic bottles used today will be around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, clogging our waters and only adding to such calamities such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The problem of excess plastic waste needs to be addressed, and yet it’s a problem that is often overlooked. UNI’s implementation of its water bottle refill stations is an attempt to educate students on the negative aspects of disposable plastic water bottles and encourage them to use refillable water bottles instead.