URI initiative diverts 324,374 water bottles from landfill

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Exeter, R.I. student gathers data from water filling stations

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 30, 2015 – Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38. Thanks to a University of Rhode initiative 324,374 plastic water bottles were saved from the state’s recycling process and landfill.

The University has installed 14 water bottle filling stations in the Anna Fascitelli Fitness and Wellness Center, the College of Pharmacy building and Hillside Hall in an effort to reduce the number of disposable water bottles being purchased and tossed.

Mary Brennan, URI’s recycling and solid waste coordinator asked Alex Fahlman, a freshman mechanical engineering major from Exeter, R.I. to visit all of the bottle filling stations around campus to gather information that the stations collect and display. Each station tallies the number of water bottles diverted from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp.’s Facilities, based on usage. His findings were:

• College of Pharmacy: 54,947

• Hillside Hall: 188,860

• Anna Fascitelli Fitness and Wellness Center: 80,567

• Total: 324,374

“When I first saw the water bottle filling stations I thought they were nice but I never imagined how many people were actually going to use them. Then when I saw the numbers I was so surprised. Whoever I shared the numbers with was also surprised so it’s really encouraging to see this success. Just thinking about 324,000 water bottles diverted from the resource recovery center is fantastic. We recycle here on campus but not everyone is as diligent as they could be,” said Brennan.

“I was not sure what to expect when I went to the locations because I didn’t know how much time people spent at them. Over 300,000 bottles is definitely more than I would expect, especially considering not everyone is going to use the refill stations,” said Fahlman.

Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year, said Brennan citing data from the Ban the Bottle campaign.

“Since we found this out we have these traditional water fountains all over campus that nobody seems to use anymore. There are retrofit kits for converting existing water fountains into filling stations. You don’t have to change the entire plumbing for older buildings so perhaps we could install this type of refillable stations in those locations, which would be fantastic.” Brennan said.

One reusable bottle can last for decades, making it easy to stop buying single-serve bottled water to fulfill your everyday hydration needs, Brennan said.

“The biggest challenge in my position is trying to get the word out to students about recycling because it can be difficult to communicate with them. We create posters and have some advertising but that’s not terribly effective,” Brennan said. “The best way to relay this message is for faculty and staff members to be good role models to the students of the University.”

“I think that most people understand the importance of recycling and why it is beneficial for the world. It seems that these new refill stations have done a good job so far of making a difference at the University,” said Fahlman.

This release was written by Caitlin Musselman, a URI Marketing and Communications intern and a public relations and political science major.