Students, faculty and staff can now refill reusable bottles with filtered water in the Odum School of Ecology building at the University of Georgia. The stations are the first on campus installed as a part of UGA’s sustainability efforts to reduce waste and the impacts associated with single use disposable bottles.
“Bottles and cans currently make up about 15 percent of the trash sent to the landfill at UGA,” says Andrew Lentini, sustainability coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. On average, only 10-15 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled nationwide, and plastic in the landfill can take a thousand years to break down.
In addition to the problem of waste, disposable plastic water bottles release greenhouse gas emissions in their production and transport which contributes to global climate change. Plus, tap water is cheaper, costing just pennies compared with $1-2 per twelve ounces of bottled water.
“One of the important benefits of these stations is that they make some of our older fountains accessible to people with disabilities. So not only do they help the environment and save money for the consumer, but they are making tasty, filtered tap water available to all,” said Kevin Kirsche, director of sustainability at UGA.
The refilling stations release a steady stream of filtered water when a bottle is placed beneath the spout. This hands-free system is fast, clean and easy. To ensure good health, the UGA Office of Sustainability recommends the use of PBA-free plastic or metal bottles that are specifically intended for reuse and that are washed after each use.
Students, faculty and staff in the ecology building have been lining up to fill their reusable bottles. The stations have received positive feedback for their convenience and the taste of the filtered water.
“You don’t see any plastic water bottles in my office now; just my refillable cup,” said Brenda Mattox, administrative financial director of the school.
Students unanimously say they like the digital counter that indicates how many disposable plastic bottles have been avoided, which reached over 600 in less than three weeks after installation. “It’s fun to watch the numbers grows,” said Rebecca Risser, an undergraduate ecology student.
The fountains were installed in early January as a partnership between the UGA Ecology Club, who raised part of the funds for the fountain, and the UGA Physical Plant. Based on the success of the pilot program in the ecology building, UGA plans to begin installing the water bottle refilling stations in other locations on campus soon.
For more information regarding the water bottle refill station project, see http://www.sustainability.uga.edu/.