University forbids plastic bottles


Some universities have the population of small cities – and are producing as much waste. In Puerto Rico, Students now reduced their refuse siginificantly.

(c) Amira Odeh
Use Thermo, not plastic. The students of the university of Puerto Rico (c) Amira Odeh

Since February there are no more plastic bottles on the campus of the university of Puerto Rico. That is surprising, because the university has the population of a little city. Not long ago, though, the situation was different. Plastic bottles used to be everywhere. On the university ground, in the libraries or lecture rooms. The university disposed of about 60,000 bottles each month. Now, it is about a few dozens.

The idea came from a group of students. The trigger was an investigative project in 2010 about the negative impact of plastic bottles on the environment. „About 75% of the plastic bottles don’t get recycled and end up on landfills in rivers or the oceans“, the students state on their Facebook page. Also: „To produce a plastic bottle it needs three times the amount of water it will finally contain.“ After four years of lobbying against plastic bottles, the university’s senate agreed to ban them from the grounds. Instead, water dispensers were installed, where students could fill up their own bottles. The sell of bottled water was reduced step by step. Beginning of February they fulfilled their promise and sold the last one.

A new idea for European universities

Puerto Rico is by far not the only university, which has banned the sell of plastic bottles. Especially in the US (e.g. Princeton, Brown University, University of Vermont), and Canada (Concordia-University, York University, University of Ottawa) awareness about the negative consequences of the use of plastic bottles is raising. In Europe, only the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, also forbid the sell of plastic bottles on the campus. Taking into account the number of students of some colleges (Sapienzia in Rome has about 140.000 students), a ban would have a huge impact on the environment.

But not everybody is happy about the ban. Last year students of the university of Sheffield voted again on ban. Many of them wanted to have the possibility to buy bottled water. Also in the forum of the university of leeds there inquiries on the sell of plastic bottles.

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